Back on Feb. 17, as the market was on sell-off mode, I recommended buying The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO).
The stock is up some 16% from our entry point. That’s because Coca-Cola recently reported a near-20% jump in profit, which soared to 67 cents a share, excluding restructuring charges.
Coca-Cola beat earnings, increased guidance, increased dividends and reinstated its stock buyback program. The company plans to repurchase $1 billion in shares of stock in the second half of 2009. What more do we need? The answer is: Consistent performance.
As I tracked the developments in Coca Cola and their global markets, I ascertained that my original view remains unchanged and Coca Cola should keep growing profits consistently, which should keep propelling its stock up.
Remember, on March 9, a few of weeks after our Coca Cola recommendation, I called the U.S. market turn by recommending a pro-cyclical energy play with Diamond Offshore Drilling Co. (NYSE: DO). That call coincided with the turn on Diamond Offshore stock as well, which has since soared about 67%.
Earlier, on October 27, I had called for the turn on iShares MSCI Brazil Index (NYSE: EWZ), which has since soared more than 90%.
The point is that emerging markets, as was my thesis, are going to turn around much faster and come back much stronger than developed economies.
Prudent emerging economies – like Brazil and Chile – having enjoyed a few years of exponential growth in commodity prices did not over-extended themselves. Instead, they captured a sizable portion of those huge price increases and turned them into huge national savings, improving their fiscal positions. They kept their banks clean and disciplined and became net creditors to the world.
So, while the advanced economies are saddled with debt, many emerging economies are the exact opposite. Their fiscal positions are strong; their social security systems are not in peril, and their population growth means strong economic growth.
So, my initial thesis was predicated primarily on the fact that strong growth in emerging markets would lead to success for major international players.
While it’s true that Coca-Cola’s soft drinks are consumer staples, which are very resilient in economic downturns, the company’s biggest advantage is that a full 75% of its income is generated abroad.
Additionally, Coca-Cola is the most widely recognized brand name in the world. With a distribution network that covers more than 200 countries and a 50% of the global market for carbonated drinks, Coca-Cola is the poster-child of a multinational.
What’s more, having kept its rival PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP) at bay by beating them in the market, their price wars are not an issue any more. This is crucial because pricing power has returned.
The strong U.S. dollar shaved 14% off of operating income during the quarter, but this is a temporary phenomenon, since the dollar is likely to remain week in the months to come.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola continues to excel in emerging markets, just as we anticipated. While overall volume growth was 4%, up from 2% in the first quarter, emerging markets took the prize: China was up 14%, India 33% and Brazil up 5%.
India, for example, has a high birth rate and 1 billion people with an average age of 25 years, and going lower. This is a very receptive crowd for carbonated, sugary drinks, especially as their income soars.
Hence, with the strong recovery in China, India, Brazil and Russia, and many more emerging markets, plus the renewed weakness in the U.S. dollar, Coca-Cola should continue to perform in the second half and beyond.
Coca-Cola stock closed Friday up 17 cents, or 0.34%, at $49.84 a share.
Recommendation: Buy The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) at market (**).
(**) Special Note of Disclosure: Horacio Marquez holds no interest in The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO).
[Editor's Note: Veteran Wall Streeter Horacio Marquez is the author of Money Morning's hugely popular "Buy, Sell or Hold" series, and is also the editor of the longstanding "Money Moves Alert" trading service.
In a new free report, Marquez has identified a category of stocks he has labeled "rocket stocks," which display key characteristics hinting that they're ready to move. One such characteristic: Heavy insider buying. In fact, one particular sector right now is seeing especially heavy insider buying – and many investors will be surprised to discover just what sector it is, and what companies top executives are buying into. For a free report that details these "rocket stock" plays, and that outlines this torrent of insider buying, please click here.]
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The Coca-Cola Company 2009 Second Quarter and Year to Date Results