More than 45 years ago, writer and philosopher Ayn Rand said, “All tyrannies have originated, not for an evil, but for an altruistic purpose — the desire ‘to do something’ with mankind.” Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used similar words, and made national headlines, in proposing a ban on large servings of soda and other sugary drinks in the Big Apple. “We’ve got to do something,” he said.
Apart from the obvious infringement on rights of citizens to freely sell and consume soda pop, Bloomberg’s ban is unlikely to have any impact on the waistlines of New Yorkers or on the beverage companies that manufacture these drinks. Even without the aid of a nanny state government, the number of calories Americans have been consumed through carbonated beverages has dropped 20% over the past decade, according to industry trade magazine Beverage Digest.
Investors shouldn’t worry about the Mayor’s proposal denting soda stocks, most of which have powered higher in recent months despite a weak market for risk and the persistent threat of even greater government regulation.
In fact, it seems the more sugary the soda, the higher the stock has risen.
For example, Monster Beverage’s (MSTR: 119.93, 1.03, 0.87%) flagship energy drink has 100 calories per 8 ounce serving, four times the limit Mayor Bloomberg is seeking to ban.
Yet sales have been nothing less than toothsome for investors, with the company’s net income rising 35% in its last fiscal year, and shares climbing nearly 100% to an all-time-high. Earlier this spring shares leapt after a rumor that Coca-Cola was considering buying the company, which generated even more interest in the stock.
For those thirsty for gains but hesitant to chase Monster’s stock, Coca-Cola (KO:73.64, 0.55, 0.75%) looks equally satiating. Originally introduced in 1886, (ironically in response to legislation banning alcohol), Coke now counts as the 84th largest economy in the world, with $35 billion in annual revenue and unmatched brand awareness: 94% of the world’s population recognizes it’s red and white logo.
And while Bloomberg might prefer we drink more water, Americans continue to guzzle Coke products on more than a daily basis, downing an average of 399 8-ounce servings of a Coke product each year. The Chinese drink only 32 per year, suggesting there’s ample room for international expansion beyond the increasingly sheltered borders of Mayor Mike’s Manhattan. At current prices, the stock yields near 2.8%.
Like Monster, the stock is exhibiting signs of technical strength, having hit a new all-time-high this spring even as the U.S. dollar, usually thought to be negatively correlated with large multinationals, strengthened. In response to Bloomberg’s proposal, Coke issued a statement, which said “the people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes” and that “they can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase.” It’s unlikely those who choose Coke are going to change routines as a result of Bloomberg’s ban.
Although less followed or widely owned than Coke, Dr. Pepper/Snapple (DPS:40.83, 0.20, 0.49%) is actually cheaper, stronger and boasts an even bigger dividend yield of 3.3%. Selling well-known sodas like 7-Up, Orange Crush, RC Cola and IBC Root beer, the 2008 spin-off from Cadbury Schweppes boasts 19,000 employees and more than $5.6 billion in revenue across 50 different brands. Dr. Pepper is recognized as being the oldest major soft drink in the U.S., having been marketed as a brain tonic and energizing pick-me-up as early as 1885.
Like other beverage manufactures, the company also produces non-carbonated products, including Mott’s Apple Juice, which isn’t covered by Bloomberg’s proposed ban despite having even more calories per serving than Coca-Cola. The stock appears on the verge of a breakout over $43/share.
Finally, while much smaller and more speculative, microcap soda maker Reeds(REED: 3.47, 0.32, 10.16%) brews a variety of naturally flavored drinks, including its flagship Original Ginger, a mainstay at many organic and health-oriented establishments — despite having 98 calories per 8 ounce serving. While it’s nearly tripled this year, the stock still trades at less than half its 2008 high.
In the mid-1990s, the cigarette industry was coerced into paying states billions of dollars to fund anti-smoking initiatives, as well as eliminating certain marketing campaigns such as Joe Camel. Did tobacco stocks sink? Hardly. They soared.
Turns out that, despite the known risks, some people just want to smoke. It’s likely the same scenario will play out with soda stocks, whose products millions of people will continue to enjoy every day, even if Mayor Bloomberg isn’t one of them.
- Government Gone Too Far?: Mayor Bloomberg Plans to Ban Large Sugary Drinks From New York City (foxnewsinsider.com)
- New York City Plans to Restrict Big-Size Soda Sales (online.wsj.com)
- NYC Mayor Wants To Ban Sugary Drinks (personalliberty.com)
- New York mayor wants big sugary drinks banned (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- Here He Goes Again: Bloomberg Set To Ban All Sugary Drinks Over 16 Ounces (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- NYC plans ban on sale of big-size sodas (foxnews.com)
- New York mayor proposes ban on big sugary drinks – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- NYC proposes ban on sale of oversized sodas (wtvm.com)
- NY proposes well-intentioned but over-reaching ban on sugary sodas (mnn.com)
- Mayor Bloomberg Proposes Ban on Large Sugary Drinks in New York City (shoppingblog.com)
- New York City mayor proposes ban on large sodas at restaurants, movie theaters and sports arenas (nj.com)
- New York City plans to ban sale of large sodas, other sugary drinks – @nytimes (nytimes.com)