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Better Buy: The Walt Disney Company vs. Coca-Cola

By Rick Munarriz - Apr 26, 2016 at 7:14PM

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Two consumer brands are moving in different directions. Find out which one is the better buy right now.

They are two of the world's most popular brands, but there's more to Disney (DIS 3.51%) and Coca-Cola (KO 0.59%) than rubbing elbows as consumer-facing titans. The two iconic juggernauts haven't been afraid to cut big checks to broaden their product portfolios.

Disney has cut 10-figure checks for Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, giving the media mogul new theatrical opportunities beyond its traditionally family-friendly fare. Coca-Cola -- seeing consumption of sugary carbonated beverages fall for the past decade -- has paid up for Odwalla fruit juices, Fuze teas, ZICO coconut water, and Glaceau vitamin-fortified water.

Diversification has paid off nicely for both companies. Coca-Cola's namesake cola continues to face sluggish consumption trends worldwide, and some of Disney's biggest hits in recent years have been Pixar computer-animated releases, Marvel superhero flicks, and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  

However, investors will want to know about the differences between the two brand darlings in deciding which stock is the better buy. A distinctive feature that separates the two giants is growth. Coca-Cola is in a slump. Revenue has inched lower in each of the past three years, and analysts see more of the same in 2016 and 2017. Disney, on the other hand, has boosted its top line in the high single digits in each of the past three years with a compound annual growth rate of 8.2% in that time. Analysts see 7.5% in revenue growth for Disney this fiscal year, slowing to 5% in fiscal 2017. 

Fizz goes flat
The growth doesn't get much kinder for Coca-Cola as we work our way down to the bottom line. Analysts see earnings per share dipping 3% this year before bouncing back 6% in 2017. That's a far cry from the 13% and 7% growth that Wall Street pros see for Disney in fiscal 2016 and 2017, respectively. 

Adding insult to injury, Coca-Cola's also the pricier stock on a price-to-earnings basis. Coca-Cola's fetching 23 times this year's projected profit, higher than Disney's multiple of 18 based on fiscal 2016. 

The trend against carbonated beverages and the reinvigorated interest in box office blockbusters seem to be pushing this decision easily into Disney's favor, but we're not done yet. For income investors, Coca-Cola is clearly ahead. Disney's current yield of 1.4% is no match for Coca-Cola's payout of 3.1%. Coca-Cola's business may seem stagnant these days, but it's a cash machine that doesn't require the perpetual investment to refresh its offerings the way that Disney has across all of its subsidiaries.

Coca-Cola also carries a lower-risk profile. What's more likely to get nixed the next time that the economy heads south, a can of Sprite or a trip to Disneyland?

It's still hard to go against Disney in this battle. The valuation is more reasonable, especially given current growth rates. There are also clear catalysts for growth as Disney's just starting to tap into the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises that it acquired from George Lucas. Coca-Cola scores points for reliability, but Disney is the one better positioned to appreciate through the next few years.

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Stocks Mentioned

The Coca-Cola Company Stock Quote
The Coca-Cola Company
$64.68 (0.59%) $0.38
The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
$109.32 (3.51%) $3.71

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