Barclays analyst Lauren Lieberman upgraded the beverage giant to overweight from equal weight in light of what she called a "thoughtful business transformation that's among the most comprehensive we've seen."
Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey told TheStreet earlier this year that he's bullish on the company's next five years. The outlook has become increasingly strong as the company pivots to invest in its new brands and jump-start its existing ones.
The transformation, which has picked up the pace since Quincey took the helm in May 2017, will better allow Coca-Cola to cope with a rapidly evolving industry landscape, Barclays analysts wrote. Barclays said it expects Coca-Cola to emerge as a "leader" in the broader consumer staples space, capable of managing "significant industry change."
The business transformation should drive "sustainably better growth," Barclays wrote, which ought to in turn yield a higher valuation premium. If the company can meet Barclays' estimates of about 5% organic growth and between 6% and 8% profit growth by 2020, Coca-Cola stock should trade at as high as a 25% premium to historical levels, analysts noted.
Barclays raised its price target for Coca-Cola to $48 from $45, representing about a 15.5% upside for shares in the coming months. A total of 28 analysts cover Coca-Cola, according to FactSet data, and 54% of them have a positive buy or overweight rating on the stock.
Coca-Cola shares rose 0.6% in premarket trading on Thursday. Shares have fallen 5.14% for the last 12 months and were down 9.44% year to date.