If you're looking for exposure to a diverse consumer goods portfolio, you can't beat Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) or Coca Cola (NYSE:KO). P&G owns 23 brands that each pull in over $1 billion of sales per year. Those include household staples such as Crest toothpaste, Downy detergent, and Pantene shampoo.
Coca Cola boasts 20 of its own billion-dollar brands. They run the spectrum from carbonated drinks (e.g., Sprite and Diet Coke) to still beverages such as Dasani water and Minute Maid orange juice. The entire portfolio delivers 2 billion servings of Coke products to consumers around the world every day.
Thanks to some recent business stumbles, dividend investors can snap up either of these blue-chip stocks at relatively high yields of over 3%. But which would be the better purchase for income investors right now?
To answer that question, let's start off with a few key statistics:
|Metric||Coca Cola||Procter & Gamble|
|Market cap||$177 billion||$229 billion|
|Annual revenue||$46 billion||$81 billion|
What jumps out from the table above is that neither of these companies looks like a steal at the moment. Their tiny growth rates don't seem to justify the steep price-to-earnings multiples the market has assigned to them. To make matters worse, both Coca Cola's and P&G's dividend payout ratios seem dangerously high -- approaching 80% of earnings.
The case for P&G
However, in Procter & Gamble's case both of those metrics are temporarily inflated for the same reason: foreign currency swings. Factor out that issue and earnings would have risen by 6% last quarter instead of suffering the 14% drop P&G actually reported. Likewise, the dividend is much safer than its payout ratio suggests. P&G produced $3.4 billion in cash flow last quarter, roughly twice the $1.8 billion it paid out in dividends.
That doesn't mean new investors shouldn't have concerns about the business. P&G's weak 2% sales growth last quarter came solely from price hikes, as opposed to volume growth, which doesn't bode well for future revenue gains. In fact, management believes fiscal 2015 will be another challenging year of "modest organic sales growth" and hardly any improvement in per-share earnings. Investors have to believe P&G can turn the tide with more product innovation and from the company's plan to shed underperforming brands from its portfolio.
The case for Coca Cola
Similarly, Coca Cola's P/E multiple and dividend payout ratio both look better when you ignore the effect of international currencies diving against the U.S. dollar. But there's still no question the selling environment is tougher than it used to be. Sparkling beverages, particularly Diet Coke, are becoming less popular. That was one reason why Coke in 2014 posted its first dip below 3% annual volume growth in almost a decade.
Sure, the waters, juices, and energy drinks in the portfolio can take up much of that slack. But Coca Cola's future depends on its sparkling brands reclaiming their volume growth.
That's one reason why I believe P&G has a better shot at beating the market over the next five years. The brand-shedding initiative should make the company more profitable and easier to manage. Coke is heading in the other direction with new investments in everything from at-home soda making to Monster energy drinks.
Also, P&G is posting impressive cash flow growth thanks to major progress at reducing costs -- it's just that those cuts haven't appeared to pay off yet on account of the profit-sapping currency moves. Once the currency pressure lets up, P&G's earnings should bounce higher, powering future hikes in the dividend and in share repurchase spending.