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Investing in Coca-Cola Is the 'Real Thing'

Stocks in this article: KO

The 136-year-old company sells its products primarily under the Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, Vitamin Water, PowerAde, Minute Maid, Simply, Georgia, and Del Valle brand names.

KO offers its beverage products through company-owned or controlled bottling and distribution operators, as well as through independently owned bottling partners, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers.

Rival PepsiCo (PEP) has been pouring on increased competition. It is spending multi-millions to increase the purchase and consumption of its best-selling brands like Pepsi-Cola, Cherry Pepsi and Mountain Dew ("and them that refuse it are few" as the words of the old country song goes.)

Coca-Cola is working its own earnings growth strategies. As an example of how KO continues to churn out huge profits ($2.31 billion in the third quarter), it announced on Oct. 16 that Coca-Cola and French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi (SNY) have a joint partnership to launch a new line of beverages to promote wellness and beauty.

The drinks, called Beautific Oenobiol, which is Sanofi's nutrition and beauty brand, will debut in France in pharmacies in autumn. The falling leaves should spell rising revenue for both companies, and KO should be more than able to sustain its $1.02 annual dividend, which represents a relatively high 52% payout ratio.

Shareholders won't be biting their nails or breaking out in a sweat about Coca-Cola's financial might. With more than $18 billion in total cash as of the most recent quarter, trailing 12 months operating cash flow of $10.51 billion and trailing 12 months levered free cash flow of $6.42 billion, it should remain both the "real thing" and the "real deal" for growth-at-a-reasonable price investors for years to come.

At the time of publication the author is long shares of KO.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real money portfolio for his charitable trust- enjoy advance notice of every trade, full access to the portfolio, and deep coverage of the latest economic events and market movements.

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