Consumer Products

Even Coca-Cola Has Trouble Calculating the Coronavirus Damage

Some companies are supposed to weather all storms. Serving beverages is supposed to be in that category, particularly now that all soda-makers are also huge sellers of water. Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) is one of the top beverage giants in the world, and it is supposed to be as defensive as they come for investors. Yet, if all the restaurants and bars are closed and everyone is forced to stay home, even the mighty Coca-Cola has some coronavirus recession risks.

Coca-Cola has updated investors in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This update focuses on business conditions in the COVID-19 pandemic and how the outbreak is having a significant impact on various markets around the world, including the United States.

The company’s filing indicates that it has put preparedness plans in place at its facilities to ensure continued operations, and the company is also taking all necessary steps to keep its teams (employees) healthy and safe. The statement said:

Our teams have conducted preparedness exercises of their business continuity plans. We tested our IT infrastructure in advance, including at our global headquarters, through preparedness exercises. In line with recommendations to reduce large gatherings and increase social distancing, the company has asked many office-based employees to work remotely.

The company is also working with the Coca-Cola bottling partners on contingency planning to maintain a continuous supply. At this time, the company said that it does not foresee any near-term disruptions in the concentrate or beverage base production.

Where the story will get interesting for investors, and it’s something that all companies likely are facing right now, is that any prior guidance is off the table. It is also becoming very difficult to expect a company to be able to predict any real revenues and earnings ahead, as the waves of unemployment numbers have not been formally released yet. Coca-Cola’s SEC filing said:

Since our last guidance update, local market policies and initiatives to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 have significantly increased. These initiatives include the direction to refrain from dining at restaurants, the cancellation of major sporting and entertainment events, material reduction in travel, the promotion of social distancing and the adoption of work-from-home policies. These initiatives, in combination with the latest movements in foreign exchange rates, will have a negative impact on our full year financial and operating results and, therefore, we do not expect to achieve our previously provided full year guidance.

Due to the speed with which the COVID-19 situation is developing, there is uncertainty around its ultimate impact; therefore, the negative impact on our financial and operating results cannot be reasonably estimated at this time, but the impact could be material. We expect to provide an update during our Q1 2020 earnings release and call.

Coca-Cola stock closed at $41.83 on Thursday, and the shares were down about 1.5% at $41.25 on Friday morning. This is down from a high of $60.13, and the old Refinitiv consensus target price was $61.45.

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