What to Look For in Coca-Cola Earnings Tuesday Morning

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Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) is scheduled to release its first-quarter earnings report before the markets open on Tuesday. The consensus forecast calls for $0.46 in earnings per share (EPS) on $7.31 billion in revenue. The same period of last year reportedly had $0.43 in EPS on $9.13 billion in revenue.

This company has paid dividends for more years than most investors can count, and the beverage giant’s dividend hike to $0.39 from $0.37 per quarter in February 2018 marked the 56th consecutive annual dividend increase. At the current share price, Coca-Cola’s stock has unfortunately been stuck in a long-term trading range with limited gains.

Coca-Cola had been considered down and out and dead money for so long that no one seemed to ever want to give its shares much recognition. It is far from a major growth stock in most investors’ minds, but its defensive stock characteristics make it a core holding for many blue chip investors.

After Coca-Cola’s most recent positive earnings report, it looks like the stock is finally starting to command more respect from Wall Street analysts. And Warren Buffett also has maintained his strong stake in Coca-Cola after all these years. Coca-Cola was a disappointment in performance in the sell-off after considering it was named among 15 defensive stocks that should survive just fine over time.

Credit Suisse is among the more bullish firms. When it reiterated its Outperform rating, it raised its target price to $53 from $51 as well. After showing that organic sales increased 6% in the quarter and rose by 3% for the year, the firm liked management’s guidance for 4% organic growth in 2018. Credit Suisse even raised its so-called Blue Sky scenario target to $59 from $56, if things go even better than expected. Its report said:

We remain positive on Coca-Cola shares because we think the company is just starting to embark on a multi-year “journey” of sales growth acceleration within its longer-term 4% to 6% guidance algorithm. CEO James Quincey is taking an aggressive approach to building a “total beverage company” and growth is clearly his top priority as evidenced by his opening remarks on the conference call, saying “we need to be growing revenue and earnings per share at a faster rate”, despite the business already outgrowing its primary competitor and the rest of consumer staples.

Over the past year, Coca-Cola has underperformed the markets, with its stock up only 1.5%. In 2018 the numbers only get worse, and the stock is down nearly over 4%.

Shares of Coca-Cola recently traded at $43.91, with a consensus analyst price target of $50.03 and a 52-week range of $42.19 to $48.62. The stock has a dividend yield of 3.5% and a market cap of $187.2 billion.

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