Soda is big in Mexico. Very big.
Second only to the United States, Mexico consumes more soft drinks on a per-capita basis than any other country in the world, and the No. 3 player (Puerto Rico) is a long way behind. While our neighbors to the south don't necessarily drink the same sodas we do (fruit flavors are far more popular in Mexico than in the U.S.), they give us a run for our money with their sheer love of fizzy drinks.
As the sole distributor of Coca-Cola
Results for the fourth quarter weren't great, but people were expecting worse. Sales were essentially flat as price increases and volume decreases canceled out and operating income was down on a year-over-year basis. While operating margins were slightly lower, net income (excluding a tax benefit) was up almost 24% on a year-over-year basis.
While Mexico remained the company's primary market (responsible for almost half of sales volume and two-thirds of operating income), revenue was weak because the company faces aggressive competition from so-called "B brand" sodas that carry lower prices.
Elsewhere in Latin America, though, the company continues to make progress. Sales grew at double-digit rates in Brazil and Venezuela and sales also improved meaningfully in Colombia and Argentina. Given the maturity of the Mexican market and the relative under-penetration of other markets, investors should continue to expect Coca-Cola Femsa to aggressively pursue opportunities to grow its business in markets outside of Mexico.
Coca-Cola Femsa is 46% owned by Femsa
Valuation for Femsa is also attractive, and investors have the advantage of a more broadly diversified company that still benefits from a major stake in the Coca-Cola Femsa soda business. Beverage companies often benefit from wide moats due to brand loyalties, and the two Femsas are no exception. Investors looking for a solid foreign investment play should check out these two beverage makers and see if they produce any fizz upon closer inspection.
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson, CFA, has no ownership interest in any stocks mentioned.