Ahead of the Bell: Monster Beverage still falling

Monster Beverage slide resumes premarket; FDA probes 5 reported deaths linked to energy drink

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Monster Beverage resumed their slide in premarket trading Tuesday, adding to a big selloff Monday, on word of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration probe of five reported deaths and one non-fatal heart attack linked to the company's Monster Energy Drink.

The stock sank $1.47, or 3.2 percent, to $44.26 before the market open, after plunging 14 percent in Monday's regular session.

The FDA is investigating reports that date back to 2004 that claim that people had adverse reactions after they consumed Monster Energy Drink, which comes in 24-ounce cans and contains 240 milligrams of caffeine, or seven times the amount of the caffeine in a 12-ounce cola.

The company puts labels on cans that state that the drinks are not recommended for children and people who are sensitive to caffeine.

The FDA said that the reports don't necessarily prove that the drinks caused the deaths or injuries.

The inquiry came to light after a wrongful death suit was filed against Monster Beverage Corp. last week in Riverside, Calif. by the parents of a 14-year-old girl who died after drinking two, 24-ounce Monster Energy Drinks in 24 hours.

At that time the Corona, Calif. company said that that it was "unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks."

Wendy Nicholson of Citi Investment Research said in a client note that Monster Beverage has faced a slew of bad news of late, including in August when the New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued subpoenas to energy drink makers, including Monster, as part of the state's investigation of the industry.

Nicholson also said that it is increasingly unlikely that PepsiCo Inc. or Coca-Cola Co. will make a takeover attempt, as PepsiCo said last week that it doesn't plan to put any of its merger and acquisition capital to the energy drink category. Nicholson suspects that Coca-Cola probably feels the same way.

She also pointed to slower growth in the energy drink category. "We think the fundamental case of strong and profitable growth at MNST has weakened considerably," Nicholson write.

The analyst kept a "Neutral" rating on Monster Beverage and cut its price target to $50 from $60.

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