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Coca-Cola (KO) Cheers Investors With a Hike in Dividend

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The Coca-Cola Company (KO - Free Report) is cheering investors by enhancing shareholder returns. The company, which is one of the largest global producer and marketer of beverages, announced the 58th straight quarterly dividend hike. It will now pay a dividend of 41 cents per share, suggesting a 2.5% rise from the prior rate of 40 cents. The increased dividend will be paid out on Apr 1 to shareholders of record as of Mar 16, 2020.

The latest dividend hike of 2.5% brings its annualized dividend to $1.64 per share versus the prior rate of $1.60 per share. Notably, the company has a 5-year annualized dividend growth rate of 4.9%. Based on its share price of $59.72 on Feb 20, Coca-Cola currently has a dividend yield of 2.7%. Moreover, the company’s current dividend payout ratio is 77.3%.

Dividend payouts are the biggest enticement for investors and Coca-Cola is committed to boosting shareholders’ wealth. Notably, it is a windows-and-orphan stock, with a long history of regular reliable dividends. In 2019, the company paid out $6.8 billion of dividends to shareholders. This brings the total amount paid out to shareholders to $54.9 billion since Jan 1, 2010.

The latest hike also reflects Coca-Cola’s solid cash position that is used to return value to shareholders (through higher dividends and regular buybacks) as well as reinvesting in the business. With an annual free cash flow return on investment of 18.6%, ahead of the industry’s 16%; the increased dividend is likely to be sustainable. The company recorded free cash flow of $8.4 billion in 2019, rising 38% from the prior year. In2020, it envisions free cash flow of $8 billion.

What Else Should You Know?

Stock Up More Than 10% in 3 Months

Coca-Cola’s innovation and investment strategy places it well to retain its leadership position in the beverage industry. We note that shares of the company have advanced 12.6% in the past three months compared with the industry’s growth of 9.9%.

The stock has also comfortably outperformed the Consumer Staples sector and the S&P 500 index, which have advanced 4.2% and 9.2%, respectively, in the past three months. Further, the stock is hovering close to its 52-week high of $60.07.

 

 

Given these dynamics, we see no reason why Coca Cola, with a long-term earnings growth rate of 7.2%, cannot breach the 52-week high mark in the near term.

Sound Fundamentals

The company stands tall in a tough beverage industry on its focus on consumer-centric innovation, solid core brand performance and improved execution in the marketplace. Constant innovation and investment in brands have been the key to its sustained growth. Innovation at the Coke brand helped it accelerate global retail value growth by 6% in the first nine months of 2019. However, the company’s innovation strategy is not focused on the Coke brand alone.

Its innovation mantra extends to all business aspects, ranging from massive categories like hot beverages to emerging ones like Kombucha. The company’s recent introduction of two flavors to its Powerade sports drink brand, which is its first additions to the brand in more than a decade, is likely to re-ignite its competitive position with arch-rival PepsiCo’s (PEP - Free Report) well-established Gatorade brand.

Additionally, Coca-Cola stays afloat in its battle to grab a bigger share of the U.S. and international cola-coffee market. The launch of Coca-Cola Plus Coffee in more than 20 markets is driving growth in international markets. Coca-Cola Plus Coffee, which has been launched in three distinct flavors of Vanilla, Caramel and Dark Blend, has an edge over PepsiCo’s Pepsi café, with just two flavors.

Summing Up

Coca-Cola’s fundamentals and strong footing in the industry along with a solid portfolio of more than 500 sparkling (carbonated) and still (non-carbonated) beverages make it a favored stock. It draws further investor attention through its regular dividend payouts and commitment to enhance shareholder returns. The stock’s fundamentals are well-supported by our Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Other Stocks to Consider

Monster Beverage Corporation (MNST - Free Report) currently has a long-term growth of 13.5% and a Zacks Rank #2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP - Free Report) presently has a long-term growth of 15.2% and a Zacks Rank #2.

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