Ambev (NYSE:ABEV) stock presents a conundrum for investors. The long-term drop in the equity and the dividend may point to a potential bargain. However, political and business headwinds in Brazil point to significant challenges. Deciding whether to buy Ambev stock, investors must weigh these benefits against both the risk and their risk tolerance.
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Most Americans have few reasons to know Ambev. The São Paulo-based brewery is a subsidiary of Interbrew International, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD). For most residents of the U.S., their familiarity with the company likely revolves around Labatt Blue, a familiar brand for those who visit Canada. Outside of the Canadian connection, Ambev operates in Latin America, primarily in its home market of Brazil.
3 Notable Risks of Ambev Stock
This unfamiliarity with AmBev stock likely extends to its significant risks. For one, Ambev faces ongoing political turmoil in its home country. The company is currently contending with an antitrust complaint filed by competitors in Brazil. A group of 110 resellers and distributors alleges that ABEV has used its market position to push abusive commercial policies. If found guilty, AmBev could face a fine ranging from 0.1% to 20% of its revenue.
Also, in 2015, Ambev was tied to the Operation Car Wash corruption scandal in Brazil. However, Ambev products faced a massive tax increase that year, despite charges that the firm made “inappropriate payments” to two former Brazilian presidents to prevent the hike. However, the increase went into effect despite the allegation. To Vince Martin’s point, that would either point to the company’s innocence or highlight how poorly the firm has mastered the art of bribery.
Secondly, Vince Martin also makes another great point about the Brazil beer market itself. Brazil was the only one of the company’s regions to decline in the first six months of the year. It also accounts for more than half of company profits. Many blame an emerging craft beer scene amid overall growth in the beer market. However, this may have begun to recover as the Brazil region saw modest revenue growth in the third quarter.
Third, ABEV stock has experienced a downtrend since peaking at more than $9 per share in early 2013. After recovering to the $7.25 per share range in March 2018, the stock tanked, falling below $4 per share by the end of that year. It has spent about 18 months trading in a range and sells for around $4.30 per share as of the time of this writing.
These risks increase the uncertainty surrounding ABEV stock. As of now, the company supports a forward price-earnings (PE) ratio of around 20.5. This might seem high for a company expected to post no profit growth this year and a 10.5% earnings increase in 2020.
3 Reasons to Buy ABEV
However, ABEV stock offers some reward for the risks. First, the current dividend yield stands at 5.2%, assuming the expected 24 cent per share gets paid. The company pays a varied dividend on a non-consistent basis. It seems especially inconsistent as it has not yet made a payout in 2019.
Secondly, the aforementioned 20.5 forward PE comes in much lower than the multiple for Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) and Diageo (NYSE:DEO). It also offers a higher dividend yield than Molson Coors (NYSE:TAP). While not the cheapest alcoholic beverage equity, it offers some unique benefits for investors willing to invest.
Third, revenue also continues to hold up well. In the recent quarterly report, profits fell by 15.8% year-over-year due to higher income taxes. However, overall revenue increased by 5.9%. The only region to experience a decline was Canada, where they face more intense competition from craft beer. It also saw its highest growth in the Latin America south region, which prospers despite the economic turmoil in Argentina.
Should I Buy ABEV Stock?
Investors have good reasons to both avoid or take a chance on ABEV stock. The risks associated with the legal and business environment in Brazil may give investors second thoughts about buying at current levels. However, it has offered a generous, if volatile dividend. It also trades well compared to other alcoholic beverage peers. Growth in some regions also points to its resilience.
As customers and Ambev adapt to the higher taxes, I expect profit growth to resume. Moreover, given the revenue growth, I expect the downward move in ABEV stock to break at some point. For those wanting a beverage stock and do not mind the risk, they should consider Ambev stock.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.
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