Coca-Cola (KO 0.95%) is set to report its first-quarter fiscal 2021 earnings on Monday, April 19. The beverage giant is going through declining sales, as people are staying home more during the pandemic and consuming fewer of its drinks at restaurants and sports/entertainment venues. Fortunately, vaccinations against the coronavirus are underway, and it appears to be only a matter of time before consumers in some parts of the world can return to their accustomed habits.
That bodes well for Coca-Cola, as it has a larger market share than its rivals in the "away from the home" market. Still, doing business during a deadly pandemic leads to many difficulties, and even though vaccinations are going well in some countries, it looks as if it will be well into 2022 before the end of the pandemic is in sight even in the developed world.
Given the major changes underway, this earnings report will be an interesting one. Here are three things you'll want to extract from the report.
Coca-Cola stands to benefit as economies reopen
First, you'll want to look at overall revenue, which declined by 5% in the most recent quarter. Sales were rebounding in the first part of last quarter, but a surge in COVID-19 cases over the winter halted that progress. With vaccinations against the coronavirus accelerating in many countries, investors are hopeful that revenue will recover as people feel comfortable going out again.
Second, you'll want to know the operating profit margin. Interestingly, despite sales declining by 5% in the most recent quarter, Coca-Cola's operating profit increased by 8% from the year before. That's in contrast to rival PepsiCo's (PEP 0.83%) most recent quarter, in which operating profit margin decreased despite revenue increasing at a robust rate. In the near term, profitability will be strongly affected by the pandemic. It all depends on how quickly the vaccine's rollout brings down infections and makes people excited about going to restaurants, ball games, and theme parks. You may remember that a 20-ounce bottle of Coke can cost upward of $5 at an American theme park but sometimes less than $0.75 in a grocery store.
Third, look for what management says about Coca-Cola's market share as economies reopen. As I touched on earlier, Coca-Cola has a larger share of the away-from-home market than its main competitor, PepsiCo, and stands to gain as people leave their homes more frequently -- since beverages sold in places like restaurants, theme parks, and ballparks are more profitable. That's usually an advantage for Coca-Cola, but it has been a headwind since the onset of the pandemic.
What this could mean for investors
Analysts on Wall Street expect Coca-Cola to report revenue of $8.57 billion and earnings per share of $0.50, which would be decreases of 0.1% and 2%, respectively. If it hits the revenue target, that would be a strong rebound from the 5% revenue decline in the fourth quarter and would set the company up to return to growth for the rest of the year.
The company is guiding investors in fiscal 2021 to look for revenue growth in the high single digits, percentagewise, and earnings growth in the low double digits. If you're looking for a company with a long history of quality performance that stands to benefit as the world begins to recover from COVID-19, then Coca-Cola should be on your list.