Coca-Cola is it

Shares of the real thing remain cheap.

By Jonathan Berr Feb 7, 2012 12:05PM
 Image Source/PhotolibraryCoca-Cola (KO) is it -- at least as far as investors are concerned.

The iconic beverage maker on Tuesday reported better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by strong growth in emerging markets such as China and India. Shares were up in early trading. The stock has risen about 9% over the past 52 weeks.

Coca-Cola said net income fell 71% to $1.65 billion, or 72 cents a share, versus $5.77 billion, or $2.46 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 5% to $11.04 billion. Excluding one-time items, profits were 79 cents a share, 2 cents better than the 77 cents expected by Wall Street analysts. The beverage company also topped the revenue consensus of $10.99 billion.

The results were impressive across the board as brand Coca-Cola volume rose 3% during the quarter and year, fueled by double-digit gains in Thailand, India and China. Revenue in Europe and North America increased by 4% each. Revenue in Eurasia and Africa gained 7%. Latin America sales rose 8%, while the Pacific Group saw a 12% increase.

Coca-Cola Zero was a standout in 2011, posting its fifth consecutive year of double-digit volume growth in North America. Both Mello Yello and Seagrams posted double-digit growth for the quarter and the full year. Overall volume rose 1% in North America and Europe in the quarter, 4% in Latin America and Eurasia and Africa, and 5% in the Pacific Group.

Investors were further heartened by Coca-Cola's announcement of a cost-cutting program called Productivity and Reinvestment that seeks to save $550 million to $650 million by the end of 2015. 

Coca-Cola should continue to do well as the economy continues to rebound and as PepsiCo (PEP) continues to flounder. Like McDonald's (MCD), Coke is finding growth in Europe at a time when it eludes many other companies. With a trailing multiple of 12.54, the stock is trading at near historic lows. Its dividend yield of 2.76% is better than the average of the S&P 500 of 2.03%.

Coke is good enough for Warren Buffett and should be good enough for most investors.

Jonathan Berr is a freelance business writer. He owns shares of Coca-Cola and McDonald's.
Tags: KOMCDPEP
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