Buffett Gives Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Two Thumbs Up

Buffett said what every Coca-Cola and PepsiCo shareholder wants to hear: he believes both companies are great businesses to own regardless of the current operating environment.

Mar 8, 2014 at 10:30AM

In a move that is sure to embolden owners of Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), Warren Buffett gave both companies his full confidence in a recent interview with CNBC. Plagued by declining soft drink volume in the United States, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo now face potential business disruptions in Russia and other markets abroad. Despite these concerns, Buffett remains enthusiastic about both companies' prospects. This is great news for long term investors that have remained on the sidelines due to fears over long term consumption rates of soda. Foolish investors would be remiss if they didn't give these soft drink behemoths a closer look following Buffett's comments. 

Buffett still likes the industry 
On Monday, March 3, 2014 Buffett sat down with CNBC analyst Becky Quick for a wide-ranging discussion. When asked about Coca-Cola, Buffett admitted that the company is under a lot more pressure now than it was when he bought it in the late 1980s, but he reiterated his belief that the world population will drink more Coke in the future than it drinks today.

A large part of Buffett's original investment thesis was that per capita consumption of Coca-Cola would continue to increase. In 1992 the world drank about one-seventh as much Coca-Cola per capita as did Americans. Buffett saw no reason why the world would not drink more Coke in the years ahead. In 2012, worldwide per-capita consumption of Coca-Cola's beverages was double what it was in 1992 -- which vindicates Buffett's belief that the brand would continue to grow even when it appeared there was no more growth left to attain.

Fast-forward to 2014 and people are again questioning Coca-Cola's prospects. Buffett, again, is optimistic about an industry that is attracting a lot of pessimism. In the interview, Buffett acknowledged that the soda tax in Mexico would hurt Coca-Cola but he noted that diet soda volume has declined more than that of the sugary sodas, which suggests that consumers' negative views regarding the health of the products may be overblown.

Although Berkshire Hathaway does not own it, Buffett also had good things to say about PepsiCo. He told Quick:

I think that Frito Lay, it is an extremely good business, it's a better business than the soft drink business, but I think the soft drink business is a good business, too, and I don't see a need to split 'em up.

Buffett's praise of the business is no surprise; both the snacks business and beverage business earn double-digit returns on capital. However, the real news was that Buffett disapproves of activist investor Nelson Peltz's quest to break PepsiCo into two companies (snacks and beverages). In fact, a survey conducted by Bernstein Research discovered that 55% of institutional investors believe that PepsiCo should be broken up. However, only 63% of respondents were PepsiCo shareholders, so it is not known if Peltz could win a proxy contest.

Moreover, legendary value investor Don Yacktman, whose mutual fund owns a little over 2% of PepsiCo, has come out against the breakup plan as well. With Buffett and Yacktman both expressing disapproval of a spin-off -- and management standing firmly against it as well -- it seems less likely that PepsiCo will be split in two. If you can trust Buffett's judgment -- and history says that you usually can -- then keeping the company together benefits long-term shareholders.

Would own even during WWIII
As previously mentioned, Buffett's CNBC interview was wide-ranging. At one point, he was asked about possible investments in the event that World War III breaks out. Buffett basically gave the go ahead to buy Coca-Cola and PepsiCo if Russia decides it wants to take over the world:

If you tell me all of that is going to happen, I will still be buying the stock. You're going to invest your money in something over time. The one thing you could be quite sure of is if we went into some very major war, the value of money would go down. I mean, that's happened in virtually every war that I'm aware of. So the last thing you'd want to do is hold money during a war.

American businesses are going to be worth more money. Dollars are going to be worth less so that money won't buy you quite as much. But you're going to be a lot better off owning productive assets over the next 50 years than you will be owning pieces of paper.

In essence, Buffett says buy and hold great businesses -- no matter what the future may hold. While most investors focus on the recent past and what may be just around the corner, Buffett believes that buying and holding great businesses is the best investment you can make at any time. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are two Buffett-identified great businesses -- and all long-term investors should consider owning them.

The World's Greatest Investor Speaks
Buffett's investment in Coca-Cola has made Berkshire over $15 billion and he wants you to be able to invest like him. Through the years, Buffett has offered up investing tips to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. Now you can tap into the best of Warren Buffett's wisdom in a new special report from The Motley Fool. Click here now for a free copy of this invaluable report.

Ted Cooper owns shares of Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and long January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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 Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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