On Oct. 24, Coca-Cola's (NYSE:KO) publicly traded Western European bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises (NYSE: CCE) held its earnings call. In the most recent quarter, Coca-Cola Enterprises saw its overall volume increase 2.5% translating into a 5% increase in reported revenue and net income expanded 10%. Coca-Cola Enterprises' earnings call yielded five takeaways.
Coca-Cola Enterprises faces competition from the likes of Great Britain based beverage company Britvic plc (LSE:BVIC) which sells and distributes the Robinson and Tango drinks as well the as the products of Coca-Cola's rival PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) such as Pepsi and 7UP. However, Coca-Cola Enterprises' executives twice quelled analysts' concern about Britvic's possible gain in market share by saying Coca-Cola Enterprises gained year-to-date volume and value share in Europe.
Marketing and weather gave the company a boost
The vast majority of volume growth came from brand Coca-Cola. Regular Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero increased volume 4% and 23% respectively. Other Coca-Cola flavors, a category that include Vanilla Coke and Coca-Cola Cherry Zero, increased volume 10%. Marketing campaigns such as the "Share-a-Coke" program where people can purchase a can of Coke with their name as well as the "Coke with Meals" program where Coca-Cola products gets marketed with food, in addition to temporarily favorable weather conditions in the month of July contributed greatly to the volume increases.
European economy remains poor
Despite an improving GDP, Coca-Cola Enterprises faces tough macroeconomic headwinds in the form of continued high unemployment and a cash strapped consumer that wants to sit on their wallet. The ravages of the various sovereign debt crises and a steep recession still remain on the minds of the European populace. Coca-Cola Enterprises' executives expect growth to remain low to flat in the near term and the weather conditions and the effects from its marketing campaign that caused the uptick in volume and revenue experienced in the most recent quarter will not remain.
Still beverages faced tough comparisons
Interestingly, Coca-Cola Enterprises' still beverages actually performed worse than sparkling with volume declining 5%. This stems from difficult comparisons to the same time last year when still beverages grew in the double digits probably due to the Olympics in London. Coca-Cola Enterprises' executives downplayed its weakness in bottled water saying that it only comprised 3% of sales.
Diets not a problem
While diet soda volume and sales continue to suffer here in the United States due to aspartame fears Coca-Cola Enterprises reports no such declines at least not yet. Coca-Cola Enterprises' CFO Hubert Patricot said that diet sodas "continue to grow very fast" and "outperformed the regular portfolio" in the most recent quarter.
Coca-Cola Enterprises trades at 19 times earnings right on par with the S&P 500 and a little less than Coca-Cola's P/E of 21. Regardless of the negative sentiment by Coca-Cola Enterprises' executives and the market in general, evidence points to pockets of recovery in Europe. Eventually European unemployment will begin to trend downward resulting in increased consumer spending. If this happens Coca-Cola Enterprises' revenue and free cash flow will accelerate translating into capital gains and dividend increases. Currently Coca-Cola Enterprises yields $0.80 per share yielding 1.9%. Coca-Cola Enterprises may represent a long-term turnaround play.