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Coke Edges Pepsi in Emerging Markets: Poll

The Coke vs. Pepsi debate hasn't died -- it's just moved to the emerging markets. And readers of TheStreet think Coca-Cola will hold a slight edge over PepsiCo in those markets.
Author:

(Coca-Cola and Pepsi poll results updated with Monday morning pre-market stock prices for both companies, as well as additional analysis.)

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

will continue to hold an edge over

PepsiCo

(PEP) - Get Report

in the emerging markets -- at least according to the readers of

TheStreet

who responded to

our recent poll.

But it's a close race.

Coca-Cola led by about 4.5 percentage points at 52.2%, compared with the approximately 47.8% of voters who believed that PepsiCo holds the most promise in the emerging markets.

It's not hard to understand why the results were almost evenly split, given that both soft-drink giants have the power and ambition to carry out their aggressive expansion plans in the emerging markets.

"I want to go back to the whole notion of investing ahead of the curve," Coca-Cola's chief Muhtar Kent said, according to an earnings call transcript by Seeking Alpha. "We're aggressively investing with our bottling partners."

Coca-Cola has already been growing by double digits for the past 26 consecutive quarters in the emerging markets, according to Kent.

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Still, Kent said in the call that he believes Coca-Cola has room to strengthen its reach to 6 million Chinese customers, and is attempting to do so through human capital investment at Coca-Cola University China, where it trains thousands of employees every year, and through investing in equipment, distribution and production.

Coca-Cola and its bottling partner COFCO Coca-Cola Beverages last year opened two bottling plants in central and western China, bringing the total number of bottling plants that Coke and its bottlers operate to 38 in Greater China as of 2009. The company says the plants are part of its $2 billion, 3-year investment plan for Chinese growth.

On Feb. 18, Coca-Cola announced its 48th consecutive annual dividend increase, raising the quarterly dividend roughly 7%, from 41 cents to 44 cents per common share. The company said the increase reflects the Board's confidence in Coca-Cola's long-term cash flow.

During the company's fourth quarter earnings call, PepsiCo's chief Indra Nooyi didn't provide an exact dollar range for the company's plans to increase investments in China and India. But the company's intentions are clear.

"We are not breaking it down in that level of detail," Nooyi told an analyst during the call, according to Seeking Alpha. "But just rest assured that

the $0.08 per share the company will be reinvesting is all towards accelerating investments in all the growth markets."

Nooyi said that PepsiCo has gotten permission to build the 10 additional plants in China, according to the transcript.

The company said that in the fourth quarter, PepsiCo International core operating profit declined 3%, reflecting the impact of significant strategic infrastructure investments in its Asia/Middle East/Africa (AMEA) division.

On Monday morning, a half hour before the opening bell of the NYSE, shares of Coca-Cola were changing hands at $56.00, up 50 cents since their Friday closing price, which shares of PepsiCo were at $62.71, up 5 cents from their Friday close.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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