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3 Aspects of Coca-Cola’s Earnings That Could Impact KO Stock

James Brumley

Did Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) lose ground during the third quarter of this year, amid the ongoing proliferation of healthier eating (and drinking) habits? Or is KO stock finally going to be boosted by signs of serious growth on the heels of new products and better marketing of old ones? Perhaps the company’s Q3 results will show something in the middle.

Despite a well-developed revenue headwind stemming from sales of some bottling operations, KO has been reporting solid, if not jaw-dropping, organic growth. The introduction of skinny, sleek cans of Diet Coke early this year is at least a fresh idea, and overall unit growth was up 2% during the second quarter. Unit sales of water products increased 4%. while the unit sales of sparkling beverages grew at a 2% rate. Something is clearly clicking. Still, Coca-Cola just doesn’t appear to have fully addressed the bigger, philosophical headwind that the company and its peers, including PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) ,are facing.

Due out before the market opens on Tuesday, the company’s earnings could show how much Coca-Cola has learned since its previous quarterly report and shed light on what owners of KO stock should expect going forward.

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Expectations for Coca-Cola’s Earnings

For the quarter ending in September, analysts on average expect KO to report income of 55 cents per share on revenue of $8.2 billion. That bottom line would be a solid improvement on the EPS of 50 cents reported in the same quarter a year earlier. However, the consensus sales estimate of $8.2 billion represents a 10% year-over-year decline.

It’s an outlook that comes with a key footnote. Namely, acquisitions, divestitures, and the impact of refranchising efforts are expected to cut the company’s sales by 13%. Adverse currency-exchange rates should shave another 3% off the top line. But organic revenue likely rose last quarter, after increasing 5% in Q2.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the beverage giant has topped earnings estimates in three of its past four quarters.

Also encouraging for owners of Coca-Cola stock is that Pepsi’s third-quarter sales and profits, which were reported at the beginning of the month, were both better than expected, bolstering hope for an encouraging Q3 report by Coca-Cola on Tuesday.

3 Things Owners of KO Stock Should Watch

Investors may want to pay particular attention to three aspects of Coca-Cola’s results. The market will probably closely study these metrics and use the company’s progress (or lack thereof) on these fronts to assess the value of KO stock.

1.Unit Sales

Revenue isn’t necessarily the end-all and be-all within the beverage world, as the company’s pricing power tends to vary. Rather, the better measure of success for Coca-Cola and other beverage companies is unit sales, i.e. the amount of products that the company shipped during the quarter

As was already noted, the company’s Q2 unit sales rose 2%. The gain was led by water’s 4% improvement but followed closely by the 2% uptick in sales of carbonated drinks and sports drinks. Unit sales of juice and dairy products fell 2%, while tea and coffee unit sales were off 1%.

2. Product Innovation

Product innovation is arguably the biggest key to Coca-Cola’s growth outlook; a close second is introducing existing products to new markets.

To its credit, the company has been successfully innovating. It launched AdeZ in Europe during Q2, and introduced stevia-sweetened Coke to New Zealand as well. As was also already noted, the reshaped cans of Diet Coke are a relatively big hit. But the soda giant does need to innovate more.

In September, KO said it was looking into creating hemp-based beverages. The nature of the product is still unclear, and any such product is still months away — at least — from being launched, if it ever launches at all. But the company could mention hemp-based beverages during its conference call tomorrow

Investors may also want to listen for details about other, healthier beverage innovations and introductions. Finally, the beverage maker could provide some clarity on what in the world it’s going to do with the UK-based coffee chain it announced that it would be acquiring.

3. International Dynamics

Last but not least, most investors may not realize it, but North America only accounts for about one-third of Coke’s business. The rest of the company’s revenue comes from overseas, with the Europe, Middle East and Africa region accounting for the largest share of the company’s sales.

That mix makes KO and Coca-Cola stock highly-vulnerable to currency turbulence and tricky to manage cost-effectively. The revenue of all four of the company’s regions grew in Q2, but only two of them reported bottom-line growth, and only one of them generated respectable unit-sale growth.

It has not been easy to determine exactly what’s working and what’s not working for the company, and its results have been relatively uneven.

Guidance And KO Stock

On a full-year basis, Coca-Cola is expecting 8%-10% growth in per share operating profits relative to last year’s $1.91. That translates into a 2018 bottom line of $2.06-$2.10 per share, versus analysts’ consensus estimate of $2.07.

Obviously, any deviation from that outlook could have a significant impact on KO stock.

As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.

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