- Coca Cola stock has barely budged during the recent market plunge.
- Coca Cola's solid dividend, and record of covering that dividend, makes it a conservative choice.
- Don't think sugar, think clean, potable water.
The Pause That Refreshes was a Coca Cola (NYSE:KO) slogan at the time of the 1929 stock market crash. Whenever the market collapses, as it has early this year, it’s a good thing to remember. Coca Cola stock has barely budged during this collapse. While many tech stocks are down 10% or more, like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) for instance, which is down by over 15%, Coca Cola stock is down only 3.7%. This has made it even more attractive, with a yield of almost 3.2%, while the U.S. 10-year bond has fallen to a yield of below 2%.
This comes from steady performance. Coca Cola always has plenty of earnings to afford its dividend - $1.90/share covered $1.22 per share in dividends during 2014, and $1.39/share in earnings covered 99 cents in dividends for the first three quarters of 2015. The company generates a steady $10 billion in cash flow each year from operations, and it makes something people won’t scrimp on when times get tight.
That something is water. While Coca Cola is known as a soft drinks company, it has really been in the business of clean, potable water ever since the early 1920s, when during a battle between bottlers and syrup producers, CEO Robert Woodruff challenged both to make sure each Coca Cola tasted the same, no matter where it was purchased.
The answer to the challenge was water treatment. Coca Cola’s Dasani brand has about 10% of the U.S. market for bottled water, making it the brand leader. Coca Cola’s share of the soda market stood at 43.4% in 2014, and it distributes some smaller brands, making Coca Cola's share of what is distributed, nearly 47%.
Despite the impressive performance, Coca Cola remains dissatisfied. It is constantly buying, combining, and spinning-off its bottlers, depending on the financial season. CEO Muktar Kent, an Egyptian, is expected to give way soon to James Quincey, a 50-year old Englishman known for improving profits and market share in Europe despite the recent upheavals there. Coca Cola, in other words, is in good hands.
Quincey’s latest move is to give all of Coca Cola’s various Coke products, including low-calorie brands, the same look-and-feel, the cans using the same logo and, eventually, the same general color scheme. The slogan is also changing to “Taste the Feeling” in order to de-emphasize the issue of sugar. The idea is that calories move from being a brand to being a feature for Coca Cola.
And if you’re wondering what power Coca Cola has to move minds, note that today’s image of Santa Claus – the jolly old guy in a red suit – was launched by Coca Cola in the 1930s in drawings by artist Haddon Sundblom. That’s why his costume is that particular shade of red.
The point is that regardless of what the market does, and regardless of what happens with global diets, Coca Cola will continue marching forward, paying dividends and delivering returns. Coca Cola is a refreshing place to park your money during a market pause like this one.