I have to admit I wondered about the investor enthusiasm for Coca-Cola
For Q4, Coke had a 7% revenue increase, slightly outpacing the 6% growth for the full year. Earnings came in slimmer, even if you account for those ever-confusing one-time charges. Q4's official tally was $0.36 per share, versus $0.50 last year. But on what Coke says was the "comparable" basis, this year's quarter brought $0.46 versus $0.46 for the prior year. On that same, basis, 2005 earnings totaled $2.17 against $2.06 last year.
Increase, decrease. Potato, puh-tah-to . especially when we're talking about what could be accurately characterized as flatness. Overall, Coke is treading water, and that's one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of the stock.
Case volumes rose by only 2% in North America, while operating income from the region actually fell by 3%. Europe's case volume was really flat, though full-year operating income improved by 24%. North Asia and the Middle East contributed 15% case volume growth but only 7% net revenue growth and a 5% benefit to operating income. Latin America saw 6% case volume growth, blah, blah, blah . are you bored yet?
Me, too. Coke is just that kind of stock. Without a diversity of products, something that competitor PepsiCo
Coke's saving grace is its free cash flow, which, by my math, hit $5.5 billion this year. The trouble is, I've got to assume 10% growth in that figure for the next half-decade to make today's price look fair -- to say nothing of getting myself a margin of safety. Sure, some of that could change, should Coke show bigger growth in some of the foreign markets, but is that fair to assume? Can we count on the kind of thing that Starbucks
That would be a wish, and I've long since learned that wishes are best kept away from the "buy" button. That means I'm tossing Coke back into the cooler, and I'll be fishing around in the ice water for something a bit more enticing.
For related Foolishness:
- Coke Fizzed Up: Fool by Numbers
- Foolish Forecast: Cracking Coke Open
- Three Blue Chips Go for the Gold
- Ugly Stocks, Great Opportunities
Coco-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Are you a bargain hunter? Join Philip Durell as he searches for the market's most undervalued stocks -- start up a free, 30-day trial of Inside Value today.
Seth Jayson hates it when those cola burp bubbles go up his nose. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here . Fool rules are here .