On Oct. 24, Latin American bottler Coca-Cola FEMSA (NYSE:KOF), "the largest franchise bottler of Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) trademark beverages in the world" held its earnings call. Coca-Cola FEMSA's reported revenue increased 4% due mainly to acquisitions. Its reported net income declined 17% due to adverse weather and waning macroeconomic conditions. In the earnings call, you can find five interesting takeaways that shed light on the prospects of Coca-Cola FEMSA and its parent company Coca-Cola.
Weather hits Mexico hard
In the month of September, Mexico was hit with two powerful storms causing case volume unadjusted for mergers to decline. Consumers were already feeling the pinch from higher food cost inflation. Over 6,000 of Coca-Cola FEMSA's mom and pop retail customers were affected by these adverse weather patterns. Company executives believe some of these retailers will not recover.
Returnable bottles all the rage
You may remember a time when you went to the grocery store and bought returnable glass bottles of Coca-Cola, Sprite, or the mostly forgotten Tab brand. After you finished with the bottles you returned them to the store for a deposit refund. In the United States, the last of the 6.5 ounce returnable bottles were finished during October 2012 at a bottling facility in Minnesota. In Latin America the returnable bottles continue and contribute greatly to Coca-Cola FEMSA's top line growth in every geographic region. In Mexico, returnable packages grew 5%. Affordability and the desire to reduce environmental impact increased consumer appeal. Latin Americans, specifically Mexicans, faced with a shrinking pocketbook remain keen on ways to save money. Coca-Cola FEMSA wants to invest more in returnables to appease consumers' increasingly frugal nature.
Mexican taxes will hurt
Mexico possesses the highest obesity rate in the world. As of this writing, the Mexican congress enacted a soda tax to curb soda consumption and to raise awareness about soda's health hazards. It may also need to raise prices to make up for the lower volume due to lower demand caused by the taxes. Moreover, Coca-Cola FEMSA may need to reduce its workforce to maintain profitability. Over the long-term an excise tax will most likely create a sense of stigma in the more health conscious consumer, putting a friction on soda sales for Coca-Cola and its bottler Coca-Cola FEMSA. Fellow Fool, Asit Sharma, disagrees with this and says that these headwinds will provide the incentive for Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola FEMSA to step up its innovation. Indeed, both companies will need to innovate to move forward.
Investing for the future
Despite headwinds Coca-Cola FEMSA understands that it needs to make investments in its infrastructure to stay competitive. In Mexico, Coca-Cola FEMSA's executives want to broaden its popular returnable package base and expand "cooler products". In Brazil, it wants to build a new regional center and a new bottling plant. Moreover it plans to invest in its own fleet of trucks in Brazil due to new transportation regulations in that country .
In an effort to increase its ubiquity, purchasing power, and boost margins through synergies, Coca-Cola FEMSA went on an acquisition binge in 2013 buying out three bottlers. Synergies from Comphania Fluminense will save Coca-Cola FEMSA $19 million alone. Coca-Cola bottlers feel compelled to consolidate in order to overcome the incremental costs stemming from the new soda excise tax. Investment research firm Zacks holds a strong sell recommendation due to huge amounts of debt Coca-Cola FEMSA took on in order make the acquisitions.
Time to buy?
Negative sentiment from Wall Street caused a correction in Coca-Cola FEMSA's stock. It now trades 38% off its 52 week high as of this writing. However, its P/E ratio of 23 exceeds its mother company, Coca-Cola, which trades at roughly 21 times earnings. With the possibility of a slowdown in the overall Latin American economy, combined with increased scrutiny and regulations stemming from the global healthy lifestyles movement, investors may want to wait for an even cheaper price for Coca-Cola FEMSA to compensate for higher fundamental risk