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Investing in Coca-Cola: 3 Pros, 3 Cons

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

By Tom Taulli, InvestorPlace Writer

NEW YORK ( InvestorPlace) -- Coca-Cola's (KO - Get Report) cash machine continues apace. In its latest quarter reported earlier Tuesday, the company posted net income of $2.8 billion, or $1.20 per share. This was up from last year's $2.37 billion, or $1.02 per share.

For the past couple of years, Coca-Cola's stock price also has been a winner. In 2009, the return was 29.3%, and a year later, it was 18.5%.

However, as for 2011, things have slowed down, with the shares gaining only 3.7%. Perhaps the valuation is a bit too high? Or can Coca-Cola bring another double-digit year for shareholders? Here's a look at the pros and cons:

Also See: 9 Great Investment Ideas for a Crazy Market.


Barriers to entry. When it comes to distribution, Coca-Cola has one of the most extensive footprints. Its beverages are sold in more than 200 countries through bottling operations, partners, wholesalers and retailers. It's actually the world's largest beverage distribution system, which accounts for 1.7 billion servings every day.

Brand portfolio. The company has more than 500 beverage brands, with four of the five top in the world, including Fanta, Sprite and, of course, Diet Coke.

But Coca-Cola continues to invest huge sums into marketing, and it also has been getting more aggressive with new media like Facebook and Twitter.

Emerging markets. Coca-Cola is positioned nicely to benefit from the growth in countries like China, Russia and Mexico. There also have been investments in Africa. The good news is that Coca-Cola has the cash flows -- and expertise -- to make the right moves in these markets.

Consider that in the latest quarter, volume increased by a substantial 21% in China. The company also made strong gains in Latin America.


North America. This segment continues to be a drag. In fact, it looks like the weakness will continue because of high unemployment in the U.S.

The competition also is intense, especially from Pepsi (PEP).

Also See: 5 Retail Stocks to Sell

Commodities costs. There is likely to be continued pressure from rising input costs, such as from sugar and cocoa. Interestingly enough, Coca-Cola's purchase of its major bottler in the U.S. likely will exaggerate this.
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