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Coca-Cola Stock Rises on Guggenheim Upgrade to Buy, Share Price Hike

Coca-Cola is 'emerging leaner, and more agile', a Guggenheim analyst says.
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Coca-Cola  (KO) - Get Coca-Cola Company Report was bubbling Tuesday after a Guggenheim analyst upgraded the soft drink giant to buy from neutral and boosted his price target to $66 from $61.

Shares of the Atlanta company were up 1.7% to $60.31 at last check.

Guggenheim analyst Laurent Grandet said in a research note that Coca-Cola is exiting the fiscal 2021 transition year "stronger."

"We think the company is emerging leaner, and more agile with a portfolio focused on larger and more profitable brands that should drive better efficiency," he said. "The savings should help support marketing investments in ’22 back to ‘19 level which should benefit the top line."

Grandet said the company is seeing strong emerging markets despite low vaccination rates and that its on-premise sales are recovering faster than expected. 

Coke Grows in Emerging Markets

"We did not anticipate the magnitude of rebound in emerging markets that has been evident over the last few months, outpacing the growth of developed markets," he said.

Emerging markets make up 20-25% of total sales and are approaching pre-pandemic levels in many markets, Grandet added.

The analyst said he views Coca-Cola's valuation as "compelling" at current share levels and sees 12% annual earnings growth through fiscal 2023.

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Grandet also noted that the acquisition of Body Armor, which is now included in his model,  could add 300 points of growth to the North America segment and 100 bps to the consolidated company in FY22.

Last month, JPMorgan analyst Andrea Teixeira upgraded Coca-Cola to overweight from neutral with a price target of $63, up from $59. 

Teixeira said she believes Coca-Cola's sales momentum will build into 2022, "fueled by reopening and pricing." 

Coca-Cola Has an Asset-Light Model

The company's profitability is relatively less impacted by cost pressures given its asset-light model and its "strong" brand equity allows for low price elasticity, Teixeira said. 

In addition, its valuation is compelling versus historical and peers, even considering the risk of a negative outcome from the tax dispute with the Internal Revenue Service, said Teixeira, who named Coca-Cola her top beverage stock pick for 2022.

In October, the company posted better-than-expected third-quarter earnings and lifted its full-year profit forecast.

Coca-Cola is scheduled to report earnings on Feb. 9.