Blast From the Past

A little unsure as to what I was researching when I ran across this ancient nugget from 2012.  I don’t recall having read it when it was fresh, but has some similarities to my investing style outside the world of Coke – particularly with the international bent.  I’ll also point out this predates the 21st Century Beverage Partnership Model where Coke essentially attempted to become a marketing engine leaving the capital intensive bottling and distribution operations to a handful of larger (facilitated by mergers) bottlers.  For today, I’ll ignore the 32 (give or take a couple) family owned operations that are basically distributors – or bottlers in name only. These buy product from larger bottlers, warehouse it  and deliver to commercial customers. I suspect these little guys won’t be long for the world as they’ve lost any economies of scale.

The impetus for this piece came from the final comment from NeoContrarian where he asks (a year ago), “This is an excellent article:- What’s the current update 6 years on???” Given the author hasn’t published anything since 2016 and I now have a vested interest, I figured it apt to address this question – particularly with the change in the business model.

I have stakes in seven of these bottlers with a pending limit order for an eighth, so allow me to correct a mistake the author made.  The list of companies contains duplicates – either with a class of stock (AKO.A/B) or CCLAY/F. The former has greater economic interest (votes) but a lower dividend while the latter is the ADR versus in country OTC listing.  The ADR withholds taxes (net payout) while the F version is the gross payout leaving the investor having to deal with those details.

Subsequent to her piece, Coca-Cola Hellenic began trading on the LSE (not NYSE) and moved its’ HQ from Greece to Switzerland, Coca-Cola Enterprises ultimately morphed into Coca-Cola European Partners, HQ UK; and Mikuni Coca-Cola merged into Coca-Cola East, which merged with Coca-Cola West becoming Coca-Cola Japan.  Also, Coca-Cola İçecek.’s ADR program has been cancelled.

I tried to retain the structure she used but made a few modifications; removed dividend growth and comparison to KO’s and added % owned by KO.  Being primarily foreign companies, dividend growth is less telling than the US as the vast majority of payouts are based on a percentage of profits.  Perhaps a profitability growth rate should be included instead.

I will editorialize that it appears the results are mixed in KO’s move out of bottling.  They have succeeded, for the most part in the domestic market – at least in avoiding reporting consolidated results.  The failure has been in foreign markets as several remain owned – at least in the majority – by KO. These include Africa (68.3%), The Philippines and Bangladesh (100%).  KO also retains significant stakes of between 14 and 34% in nine of the publicly traded bottlers. This analysis excludes privately owned companies with the exception of Joint Ventures that include public companies.

a/o 8Dec2019

Yes it remains possible to muster a dividend yield piggybacking on KO’s marketing prowess.  There are risks, chiefly currency and political. For instance, Zimbabwe faces a hard currency shortage leaving Heineken unable to repatriate their profits.  The reason I have no intention of buying Hellenic or İçecek. Is their exposure to Russia and Turkey respectively. Future administrations may revert back to normal putting undue risk on the table.

The one aspect I didn’t anticipate was the consolidation of bottling operations into the larger operators leaving the smaller players as merely distributors.  That is one way to spread the capital intensiveness into manageable pieces and is probably one reason for their performance.

There are risks as well as potential rewards – perform your own due diligence.

Own: CCEP, KOF, AKO.B, CCLAY, SWRAY, KNBWY, COKE.  Open order: CCOJY

November 2019 Update

Alright, I do have a bias.  Generally I don’t pay much attention to Jim Cramer, but his recent attention grabbing headline did pull me in.  “Owning too many stocks and not enough cash can set you up for failure: Cramer” was the title.  As one who owns 200+ issues, I’m always on the lookout for alternative views.  My expectation was for the sage advice to be essentially “have a war chest and shopping list at the ready”.  But rather it was, “Limiting your holdings can be a great tool for investors who don’t have the time or the drive to do their homework for 20 or 30 different companies”.  The essential message being if you “own more than 10 stocks, you might want to consider paring back”. Say what? This recommendation doesn’t even provide exposure across all sectors. So what to do if like me you have an overabundance?  Sell, he says. “Sometimes, it can be as simple as selling some stocks and getting some cash on hand. Go sit on the sidelines — nothing wrong with that.” Very true if one has a knack for timing the markets. My methods aren’t for everyone either as my emphasis is on consolidation, typically M&A – which results in slightly higher mediocrity for this portion of my portfolio with the aspiration of getting a tape measure homer.  As they say, the devil is in the details. His view was apparently honed as a trader rather as a buy and hold type of investor as he states, “I would analyze every losing trade … I realized that good performance could be linked directly to having fewer positions”. Okey dokey, ‘nuff said ….

Certainly a long and roundabout way of saying the market was basically on an upward tear this month with only a few down days.  Try timing that movement! So the S&P rose a stellar 3.9% – the best since June while my portfolio – including the purchase spree I’ve been on – rose 9.84%.  Excluding the final round of purchases – even with no fresh money being used – the portfolio value rose by 2.43%, a tad below the index, probably due in part to buying at elevated levels.

PORTFOLIO UPDATES

  • increased my PB position and lost LTXB (merger).  I’m now overweight PB as my position doubled which I’ll reduce in the next tax year.
  • New Position – PBCT and lost UBNK (merger)
  • increased my WFC position (replication strategy)
  • New Position – KFC  (replication strategy)
  • New Position – PG (replication strategy)
  • increased my YUMC position basically as a rebellion against the President’s antics.  They derive 100% of their sales, all of their profits, no imports or exports (all domestic), and their entire supply chain is in China.  Yet they are incorporated in Delaware and pay a USD dividend. The major question is currency exchange on their P&L statement and the president’s delisting campaign.
  • increased my TD position (IRA).  I’ll increase it further and sell my taxable account shares after the first of the year.
  • New Position – KNBWY – another statement selection – message being , “Mr. President, play with tariffs all you like but there are Japanese companies other than car manufacturers employing thousands of Americans”.  Besides, I see their sales improving in 2020 with the Olympics being in Japan and it fits my bottler strategy.

DIVIDENDS

My primary focus resides on dividends with the goal being a rising flow on an annual basis.

  • November delivered an increase of 15.51% Y/Y.
  • Dividend increases averaged 10.11% with 68.72% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 5 cuts). This is off last years’ pace and I believe a new personal record for dividend cuts in a single year since about 1980.
  • 2019 Dividends received were 99.63% of 2018 total dividends putting me on target to exceed last year’s total on December 1st. The YTD run rate is 110.76% of 2018, slightly over my 110.0% goal. Point of reference, this is the first time since starting this blog that I didn’t exceed the prior year dividends before the end of October.

Note: I updated my Goals page to provide a visual of these numbers.  Based on Mr All Things Money’s instruction set with a conversion to percentages.  My code only updates when the monthly Y/Y number is exceeded.  Otherwise, the prior year actual is used.

AT A GLANCE

Inspired by Simple Dividend Growth‘s reporting

Key thing I’m looking at is the ratio between market action and purchase activity. This month was roughly 80/20. I suspect most months will be 95/5 as I rebuild the war chest. Another point of interest was the M&A cash exceeding my dividends. I can assure you this is a rare occurrence. It will be interesting to see what I track going forward.

SPINOFFs

On Oct 4, 2018 MSG filed a confidential Form 10 to spin the sports business which remains in progress.

MERGERS

VLY to acquire ORIT for 1.6 sh VLY to 1 ORIT. This merger will result in a slight dividend cut November forward as the rate will be normalized to VLY’s current rate. In my view, the other positives outweigh this negative.  Should close December 1st.

Spirit MTA REIT (SMTA) voted on Sept. 4th to approve the sale of most assets to HPT for cash. A second vote was held to liquidate the REIT. The first payment was received and am awaiting final settlement payout. Fully expecting a profitable outcome for one of my most speculative positions.

SCHW to acquire AMTD for 1.0837 sh SCHW to 1 AMTD.  My only surprise with AMTD being taken out was the suitor – I had expected TD.  Regardless, I have three concerns over this deal, 1) profit margin compression with the onset of $0 fee trades, 2) possible liquidation of a partial TD stake to reduce their ownership share from 13.4% to 9.9% (the same issue Buffet regularly faces) and 3) 10 year phase-out of AMTD/TD cash sweep account relationship.  The third one means TD has a low cost (albeit, decreasing) source of deposits for the foreseeable future. After the first of the year, I’ll probably cash in AMTD and increase TD a little further.  

Although XRX is officially off the list with their Fujifilm settlement, Icahn & Co. couldn’t wait for the ink to dry before stirring things up with HPQ.  As of now, I am considering exiting my XRX position.

SUMMARY

Overall, the only complaint being not exceeding last year’s dividend haul until December. The culprits being five dividend cuts and merger timings (a couple of completions were accelerated to avoid a payment). My cash position is close to zero, but with replicating the kids’ portfolio complete, I expect this to rapidly change to rebuild a stash for my next sizable purchases (unless market conditions warrant), expected in tax season.

Here’s hoping your month was successful!