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Why Shares of The Coca-Cola Company Went Flat Today

By Alex Planes – Oct 21, 2014 at 3:20PM

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Is this meaningful or just another movement?

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Coca-Cola (KO 0.44%) have lost 6% today -- their worst daily performance in this decade -- after the company reported disappointing third-quarter earnings results and warned investors to expect more disappointment ahead.

So what: Coke's third-quarter revenue of $11.98 billion was just below the $12.03 billion collected in the year-ago quarter. Earnings of $0.48 per share fell 13% below the year-ago quarter's $0.54, but adjusted EPS came in at $0.53, the same as 2013's result. Analysts had expected $12.12 billion on the top line and $0.53 on the bottom line, so Coke missed on revenue but hit its EPS target. Case volume was up a mere 1% globally, with 5% growth in the Eurasia and Africa geographic segment offset by a 5% decline in Europe.

This disappointing quarter prompted Coke's leadership to accelerate its strategic shift, which is aimed at improving long-term financial results. Coca-Cola now aims to cut $3 billion in annual costs by 2019, and while the company only mentioned vague supply chain restructuring that will outsource more of its bottling operations, it is expected that a good deal of this streamlining will result from deep payroll cuts as jobs are outsourced or eliminated.

The company also offered disappointing guidance for the full year. It continued to blame currency exchange fluctuations for what is now expected to be a 7% decline in fourth-quarter operating income, with full-year EPS anticipated below its "long-term growth target" of high single-digit percentage growth.

Now what: Blue-chip stocks are looking rather worn out this year, and Coke is only the latest large-cap stalwart to disappoint investors in the third quarter. Coke remains a dividend powerhouse, and still plans to buy back $2.5 billion of its shares this year, which will provide some positive momentum. However, investors should also begin considering the possibility that a globally saturated Coke simply can't provide the same consistently solid growth investors have enjoyed for decades. If dividends are your goal, Coke still has them in spades, but if you want real growth on top of those dividends, there might be better large-cap stocks to consider.

Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. 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.

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