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Coca Cola Raises Its Dividend...Again

Zacks Equity Research

Coca Cola Company (KO) hiked its quarterly dividend to 51 cents per share from 47 cents per share.  On an annualized basis, Coca Cola’s dividend equates to $2.04 per share compared with $1.88 a year earlier. Management said that the dividend hike reflects “confidence in the company's long-term cash flow.”

The increased dividend is payable on April 1, 2012 to shareholders of record on March 15, 2012. The company hiked its dividend by 8.5% and Coca Cola boasts a record of increasing its dividend for 50 years consecutively.

The move comes two weeks after the company posted outstanding fiscal 2011 earnings of $3.84 cents per share, 10.0% higher than the year-ago earnings. The growth was mainly attributable to solid growth in concentrate sales and positive price/mix.

The company also repurchased shares worth $2.9 billion in 2011, at the high end of the previous guidance range of buying shares worth $2.5 to $3.0 billion.

The world's biggest beverage firm’s annual dividend of $2.04 a share amounts to a current yield of 3%, compared to 2.7% yield existing at present. The yield provided by the shares of the company ranks second only to its rival Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) among the nine dividend-paying companies in IBD's Beverages-Non Alcoholic group.

These increased returns are supported by strong cash flows, which provide a solid foundation for the distribution. Cash from operations was up 7% in 2011, excluding the significant pension contributions made in the first quarter of 2011.

We currently have along-term Neutral rating on Coal Cola. For the short term (1–3 months), the stock retains a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold).

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