Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) manufactures, distributes, and markets nonalcoholic beverages worldwide. This dividend king has paid uninterrupted dividends on its common stock since 1893 and increased payments to common shareholders every for 50 consecutive years. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B, BRK.A) is the largest shareholder of the world’s largest beverage company.
The company’s last dividend increase was in April 2011 when the board of directors approved an 8.5% increase to 51 cents per share. Coca-Cola’s largest competitors include PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), Dr. Pepper Snapple (NYSE:DPS) and Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST). Over the past decade, this dividend growth stock has delivered an annualized total return of 6.7% to its shareholders.
The company has managed to deliver a 9.7% annual increase in EPS since 2002. Analysts expect Coca-Cola to earn $4.08 per share in 2012 and $4.47 per share in 2013. In comparison, Coca-Cola earned $3.69 per share in 2011.
Coca-Cola’s 2020 Vision Strategy strives for a high-single-digit annual EPS growth throughout this decade, driven through 5%-6% annual increases in revenues as the company expects 3%-4% yearly increase in sales volumes. The company has managed to consistently repurchase 0.9% of its outstanding shares on average in each year over the past decade. The spike in 2010 EPS was caused by a onetime accounting event related to recognizing a gain on the 33% stake in Coca-Cola Enterprises (NYSE:CCE) that Coke already owned before acquiring the bottling giant.
Some of the company’s acquisitions during the past years have provided increased exposure to higher-growth still beverages, which is where Coke lags behind PepsiCo. The acquisition of CCE’s North American bottling business should bring in sufficient cost savings for the company’s North American supply chain, which would result in increase in cash flows. The deal is expected to deliver approximately $350 million in cost savings during the first four years of implementation. In addition to that, it will bring more control over North American operations, deliver more flexibility in the company’s strategy implementation and reduce conflicts over the product mix with bottlers.
Emerging markets in Asia and Latin America are key to the company’s growth strategy, as more consumers there join the middle class. For example, the average consumer in China enjoyed 34 servings of Coca-Cola in 2010, versus 394 servings that the average consumer in the U.S. enjoyed. The average consumer in India only enjoyed 11 servings of Coca-Cola, whereas the average Russian had 69 servings of the product.
The company’s return on equity has been on the decline over the past decade, falling from a high of 35% in 2002 to a low of 27.6% in 2011. Rather than focus on absolute values for this indicator, I generally want to see at least a stable return on equity over time.
The annual dividend payment has increased by 10.1% per year during the past decade, which is slightly higher than to the growth in EPS.
A 10% growth in distributions translates into the dividend payment doubling every seven years. If we look at historical data, going as far back as 1971 we see that Coca-Cola has managed to double its dividend almost every seven-and-a-half years on average.
The dividend payout ratio has remained at or above 50% over the past decade, ignoring last year’s spike caused by the onetime accounting gain referenced above. A lower payout always is a plus, since it leaves room for consistent dividend growth, minimizing the impact of short-term fluctuations in earnings.
Full Disclosure: Long KO and PEP