Best Blue Chip: Coca-Cola

In the spirit of the Winter Olympics, which start Friday in Torino, Italy, The Motley Fool is pitting companies against one another. The writers will outline why their company is the best, and our very own panel of judges will decide the winner after a period of deliberation. Stay tuned for more!

Warren Buffett was once asked about Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) .

"If you gave me $100 billion and said take away the soft drink leadership of Coca-Cola in the world, I'd give it back to you and say it can't be done."

That wasn't just talk. Buffett figured that if he couldn't beat them, he'd join them. The soft drink giant has been a staple in Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRKa  ) (NYSE: BRKb  ) over the past few decades.

Coca-Cola is everywhere. Just watch the Winter Olympics opening ceremony come Friday, and you can rest assured that if there's a flag waving that Coke is there. The company is behind 400 different beverages sipped daily in 200 different countries. More than 70% of the company's net income now comes outside of the United States.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that Coca-Cola is the world's most valuable brand. That's not just subjective bravado. The Interbrand consultancy ranks the top global names, and Coke has been the top dog for years. According to Interbrand, the Coca-Cola brand name alone is worth $67.5 billion.

"Coke is the ultimate in predictable business models," wrote Philip Durell as he was recommending the shares to Inside Value subscribers a little over a year ago "Its worldwide marketing and distribution channels make it impossible to replicate, and it produces a ton of free cash flow."

It is the perfect business. Syrup is sold to its global network of bottlers, who then distribute the carbonated bliss at a price that's dirt cheap to the consumer but still robust enough to grant Coke a healthy and sustainable 22% in net profit margins.

It's not just sugar water -- non-carbonated water and juices now account for a fifth of Coca-Cola's sales. New introductions, like the Full Throttle energy drink line and the rollout of the coffee- and Coke-blended Blak this year, keep Coke products in the hands of consumers who may not even realize they're patronizing the most valuable brand in the world.

Coke is far ahead of its only direct rival here, PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) .

In a nutshell, Coca-Cola is a public license to print money. It has put that money to good use through healthy dividends, aggressive share buybacks, and the snapping up of minority interests in many of its overseas bottlers.

Will that be enough to land Coca-Cola the gold in this competitive category? I certainly think so. If not, let me see whether I can box the judges into a hot corner and try to bribe them with an icy cold Coke.

More on the battle of the blue chips:

Coca-Cola is aMotley Fool Inside Valuepick. Try a 30-day free subscription and gain access to more great stock ideas at bargain-basement prices.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz grew up a Pepsi drinker, but his wife converted him to Coke. But these days, we're talking Diet Coke and Coke Zero. Rick does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


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