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Coca-Cola(KO) - Get Report is one of the great success stories of American capitalism. No matter what ups and downs the financial markets bring, the Atlanta-based giant has a long history of steady performance. Shares were down slightly in Monday trading. 

Coca-Cola is an excellent choice for investors looking for both growth and income. The dividend rate is a healthy 3.32%, and the company has a long history of keeping that payout on a steady upward path. Given how low interest rates are, steady income like that is a big plus. The stock's price-earnings ratio is 24.

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These are among the factors that distinguish Coca-Cola from its rivals in the soft drink and snack food sector, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. PepsiCo's dividend yield is lower (2.86%) and its price-earnings ratio is higher (30). Dr. Pepper Snapple's P/E is lower (21) but its payout trails the other two at 2.34%.

According to the latest figures, Coca-Cola has assets of almost $94 billion. That includes bottling operations and other production facilities around the world, other properties, equipment, cash, goodwill and various investments. The company's debt is less than $50 billion, including $14 billion in short-term borrowings and more than $34 billion in long-term debt. Other liabilities bring the total to around $65 billion.

But the company's biggest asset is hard to quantify on a balance sheet -- the iconic brand name. In addition to Coke itself, the company also makes Sprite, Fanta, Powerade and others. Coca-Cola is the best-selling soft drink in most countries, and was named the number one global brand in 2010.

The firm has been branching into healthier offerings by launching preservative-free flavored milk Vio, as well as Fuze tea with fruit flavors and natural ingredients.

In its most recent earnings report, the company said second-quarter net income rose to $3.45 billion, or 79 cents a share, compared with earnings of $3.11 billion, or 71 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

This beat the analysts' estimates, but many market-watchers chose to focus on the beverage giant's overall sales numbers, which fell by about 5%. As a result, the stock's prices was in the doldrums for much of the summer.

The revenue figures, however, were not indicative of the company's core strengths. Strong performance in some of its largest and most developed markets, including the United States, Mexico and Japan, was offset by difficult external conditions in many developing markets, including China and Argentina. As a result, the recent price decline represents a buying opportunity for long-term investors.


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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.