Has PepsiCo Become the Perfect Stock?

Every investor would love to stumble upon the perfect stock. But will you ever really find a stock that provides everything you could possibly want?

One thing's for sure: You'll never discover truly great investments unless you actively look for them. Let's discuss the ideal qualities of a perfect stock, then decide if PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) fits the bill.

The quest for perfection
Stocks that look great based on one factor may prove horrible elsewhere, making due diligence a crucial part of your investing research. The best stocks excel in many different areas, including these important factors:

  • Growth. Expanding businesses show healthy revenue growth. While past growth is no guarantee that revenue will keep rising, it's certainly a better sign than a stagnant top line.
  • Margins. Higher sales mean nothing if a company can't produce profits from them. Strong margins ensure that company can turn revenue into profit.
  • Balance sheet. At debt-laden companies, banks and bondholders compete with shareholders for management's attention. Companies with strong balance sheets don't have to worry about the distraction of debt.
  • Money-making opportunities. Return on equity helps measure how well a company is finding opportunities to turn its resources into profitable business endeavors.
  • Valuation. You can't afford to pay too much for even the best companies. By using normalized figures, you can see how a stock's simple earnings multiple fits into a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. For tangible proof of profits, a check to shareholders every three months can't be beat. Companies with solid dividends and strong commitments to increasing payouts treat shareholders well.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at PepsiCo.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth 5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15% 13.4% Fail
  1-Year Revenue Growth > 12% 10.9% Fail
Margins Gross Margin > 35% 52.2% Pass
  Net Margin > 15% 9.6% Fail
Balance Sheet Debt to Equity < 50% 120.7% Fail
  Current Ratio > 1.3 1.03 Fail
Opportunities Return on Equity > 15% 27.7% Pass
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 18.74 Pass
Dividends Current Yield > 2% 3.1% Pass
  5-Year Dividend Growth > 10% 11.4% Pass
       
  Total Score   5 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at PepsiCo last year, the company has dropped a point. Falling revenue growth explains the loss, but shareholders still have to be happy about a modest pickup in the share price over the past year.

The beverage industry has performed relatively well this year, despite some shared challenges. Like those of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) and Dr Pepper Snapple (NYSE: DPS  ) , PepsiCo's products include substantial amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, the price of which has soared recently as the price of corn has been very sensitive to this summer's drought conditions.

The key to success for PepsiCo has come from emerging markets. Soda consumption is down in North America, but with Pepsi's distribution systems forcing Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) to pay the company to distribute its Tazo teas rather than developing its own distribution network, PepsiCo has managed to reap benefits beyond its own business.

Moreover, many investors forget about the diversification advantages that PepsiCo's Frito-Lay snack unit gives the company. As the fight between Diamond Foods (Nasdaq: DMND  ) and Kellogg over the Pringles brand last year shows, having a well-known snack line is very lucrative, and Frito-Lay has a more commanding presence over the snack market than Pepsi has against Coke and its peers.

For PepsiCo to improve, its plan to boost ad spending needs to produce much-needed revenue growth and better margins as well. With shares at the upper end of a reasonable valuation, though, PepsiCo may need to pause before it can make a real run toward perfection.

Keep searching
No stock is a sure thing, but some stocks are a lot closer to perfect than others. By looking for the perfect stock, you'll go a long way toward improving your investing prowess and learning how to separate the best investments from the rest.

PepsiCo may not be perfect, but we've got some other ideas you might like better. Let me invite you to learn about three smart long-term stock plays in the Fool's latest special report. It's yours for the taking and is absolutely free, but don't miss out -- click here and read it today.

Click here to add PepsiCo to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Starbucks, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola, as well as creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo and writing covered calls on Starbucks. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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