Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) needs no introduction. It's one of the most universally known brands in the world and has a tremendous financial track record of growth and enriching shareholders for many decades. Interestingly though, Coca-Cola is at somewhat of a crossroads. Its flagship sparkling beverages are losing favor with consumers in developed economies because of shifting consumer preferences away from sugary, high-calorie drinks. This is reflected in sluggish case volume growth for Coca-Cola over the past several quarters, particularly in North America.
In response, Coca-Cola is about to embark on new product categories to drive innovation for the future. The most significant of its initiatives includes partnerships with Keurig Green Mountain (UNKNOWN:GMCR.DL) and Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST) on developing new product lines that could revolutionize their industries.
Here is a breakdown of Coca-Cola's recent past, its future, and whether this dividend stock is a buy right now.
Breaking ground on new innovations
Coca-Cola has made a series of investments in Keurig Green Mountain, and the two companies are about to collaborate on a brand new major product. Coca-Cola took a 16% stake in Keurig Green Mountain, and the two companies will prepare the launch of the Keurig Cold beverage platform as part of a 10-year agreement. Coca-Cola sees the at-home beverage platform as a compelling opportunity. In addition, Coca-Cola took a 16.7% stake in Monster Beverage Corporation. This gives Coca-Cola a presence in energy drinks, which are a higher-growth corner of the beverage market than soda.
These investments don't carry a lot of risk for Coca-Cola. The company could strike gold with the Keurig Cold system if the technology is universally adopted. Moreover, partnering with Monster Beverage could be an effective way to diversify its business. And, considering the investments amount to a small sum given Coca-Cola's massive coffers, these are certainly ideas worth pursuing.
This is especially true when you consider Coca-Cola's growth is less than impressive. Coca-Cola produced constant-currency revenue growth of just 3% last quarter and over the first half of the year. In addition, Coca-Cola generated 6% constant-currency earnings-per-share growth last quarter. Its financial performance was dragged down by sluggish case volumes. Global unit case volume grew 3% last quarter internationally, but volumes in North America were flat.
What investors can continue to count on is Coca-Cola's dividend. The stock yields a healthy 2.9%, and has raised its dividend for 52 years in a row. This places Coca-Cola in truly elite company among dividend payers.
Buy Coca-Cola now? Maybe
Coca-Cola is a highly profitable company, produces solid growth of revenue and profits like clockwork every year, and rewards its shareholders with a rock-solid dividend. But whether the stock should be bought right now is somewhat debatable, because Coca-Cola is fresh off an incredible rally over the past few years that has left the stock looking a bit pricey.
Coca-Cola stock sits near $42 per share, very close to its all-time high. This has raised the valuation of the stock to 22 times trailing earnings per share, a multiple that represents a five-year high. The stock trades for 19 times forward earnings estimates, which is a fairly high multiple for a megacap company that isn't expected to produce huge earnings growth going forward.
That's why, while Coca-Cola is a great dividend stock, now might not be the best time for new investors to jump in. That being said, if prospective investors get a meaningful pullback from its current level, Coca-Cola is a great company and a long-term winner. Investors will still receive modest earnings growth, with the potential for better results ahead if its strategic investments in Keurig Cold Mountain and Monster Beverage pay off. While not pounding the table to buy Cocal-Cola stock, dividend investors can surely count on Coca-Cola continuing its streak of annual dividend increases.
Bob Ciura has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola, Keurig Green Mountain, and Monster Beverage. The Motley Fool owns shares of Monster Beverage and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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.