Investing Like a Billionaire: Everything Berkshire Hathaway Offers to Ordinary Investors

With a $867.46 billion market cap, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B), a diversified holding company, is led by Warren Edward Buffett, who is one of the world’s renowned investors with a long track record of successful capital allocation and value creation. As of May 8, 2024, he has a net worth of $133.50 billion, making him the eighth-richest person in the world.

Buffett’s substantial wealth primarily stems from his significant holdings in Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate with assets exceeding $1 trillion. Under Buffett’s expertise and exceptional leadership, Berkshire has historically delivered robust and consistent long-term growth, outperforming various other investment options.

From 1965, when Warren Buffett took control of the company, to 2023, Berkshire’s share price surged by a staggering 4,384,748%, surpassing the total return of the S&P 500 with dividends included of 31,223%. Additionally, Berkshire has continued its solid performance into 2024, with a double-digit percentage gain.

Berkshire’s Portfolio Reflects Buffett’s Investment Strategy

Known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett stands out as one of the most accomplished investors of all time. He follows the Benjamin Graham school of value investing, seeking out securities with unreasonably low prices compared to their intrinsic worth. He often assesses the company’s long-term potential rather than short-term market trends.

Buffett considers company performance, profit margins, management team, and business model. He believes in investing in high-quality businesses with solid competitive advantages or “economic moats,” enabling them to maintain or expand their market share over time.

Sticking to his investment policy, Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, aims to “buy ably-managed businesses” possessing various characteristics, such as enduring competitive advantage, at extremely low prices.

For instance, the acquisition of See’s Candies in 1972 demonstrated Buffett’s strategy, as the company's robust brand and loyal customer base made it a highly profitable long-term investment. He favors companies with strong brands and business models that own their market niche, creating formidable barriers for competitors trying to enter and beat them at their game.

Berkshire Offers Diversification Across Industries

Berkshire Hathaway’s top holding is Apple Inc. (AAPL). Thanks to its strong brand and customer loyalty, it has remained one of Buffett’s favorite stocks for a long time. He has previously referred to AAPL as the “best business I know in the world.”

BRK.B recently disclosed that it had cut its stake in Apple by around 13% in the first quarter. It was reported that Berkshire’s Apple bet was worth $135.4 billion, implying nearly 790 million shares. Despite this trim, the iPhone maker is still Berkshire’s biggest holding by far, with a 39.8% weight in its publicly traded portfolio.

Another consumer goods company that Buffett loves is The Coca-Cola Company (KO). He recognized the company’s iconic brand, attractive dividends, and market advantages. Coca-Cola’s robust brand has enabled it to mitigate the impact of inflation by transferring higher costs to customers while still being able to generate growth.

At around 6.9%, KO is the fourth-largest holding in Berkshire’s portfolio. Berkshire owns a 9.3% stake in the company.

Meanwhile, Warren Buffett holds significant investments in the energy sector. During the fourth quarter of 2023, Buffett’s Berkshire increased its stakes in two major oil and gas companies, Chevron Corporation (CVX) and Occidental Petroleum Corporation (OXY).

Berkshire Hathaway owns about a 6.7% stake in CVX. According to Berkshire’s February shareholder letter, the firm also holds a 27.8% stake in OXY and has warrants to increase its ownership further at a fixed price.

Chevron (about 5.5% of the portfolio’s total weight) and Occidental (4.5%) provide investors with exceptionally good returns amid the inflationary periods and pay attractive dividends.

In addition, Buffett is fond of financial institutions and insurance companies, viewing them as a strategic bet on the long-term health of the U.S. economy. Berkshire's top two financial holdings are Bank of America Corporation (BAC) and American Express Company (AXP). These financial stocks comprise approximately 21% of the Berkshire portfolio’s total weight.

Outstanding First-Quarter Operating Earnings and Record Cash Hoard

For the first quarter that ended March 31, 2024, Berkshire’s total revenues increased 5.3% year-over-year to $89.87 billion. Revenues from Railroad, Utilities and Energy rose 11.2% year-over-year, and revenues from Insurance and Other grew 3.2%.

The Warren Buffett-led conglomerate reported first-quarter operating profit, which encompasses earnings from the company’s wholly-owned businesses, grew 39% from the year-ago period to $11.22 billion. This remarkable surge was led by a 185% year-over-year increase in insurance underwriting earnings to $2.60 billion. Insurance investment also soared 32% to over $2.50 billion.

However, net earnings attributable to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders declined by 64.2% year-over-year to $12.70 billion.

During the first quarter, the company’s cash pile reached a record high of $188.99 billion, up from $167.60 billion in the fourth quarter.

“We had much-improved earnings in insurance underwriting. And then our investment income was almost certain to increase,” Buffett said at Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. “And I said that in the annual report because yields are so much higher than they were last year. And we have a lot of fixed, short-term investments that are very responsive to the changes in interest rates.”

Bottom Line

Berkshire Hathaway, led by a well-known investor, Warren Buffett, follows an intrinsic value investing approach, aiming at buying undervalued companies with solid fundamentals, competitive advantages, and long-term growth potential. Berkshire owns a diverse portfolio of businesses, including insurance, utilities, transportation, retail, and technology, among others.

Moreover, Berkshire’s top five holdings pay attractive dividends, which indicates Warren Buffett’s interest in stocks that offer a stable income stream.

Buffett’s conglomerate recently reported a significant surge in operating earnings in the first quarter of fiscal 2024, primarily driven by an increase in insurance underwriting earnings and a record cash pile that nears $200 billion.

USB analyst Brian Meredith maintained a Buy rating on Berkshire, citing the recent earnings beat and noting that Geico is on track to catch up to rivals Progressive and others on data analytics by 2025.

Berkshire Hathaway has historically delivered impressive and consistent returns. From 1965 to 2023, its share price skyrocketed 4,384,748%, more than 140 times the total return of the S&P 500, with dividends included. Moreover, Berkshire shares have already outperformed this year, with each share class having advanced more than 12%, while the S&P is up by nearly 8%.

Shares of BRK.B have gained approximately 16% over the past six months and more than 22% over the past year.

Looking ahead, analysts expect BRK.B’s EPS for the fiscal year (ending December 2024) to increase 14.6% year-over-year to $19.70. Further, the company’s EPS and revenue for the fiscal year 2025 are expected to grow 1.4% and 5.6% from the prior year to $19.97 and $376.61 billion, respectively.

Thus, by owning BRK.B shares, investors can gain exposure to Berkshire’s diversified portfolio of businesses, Buffett’s expertise, and stable growth and performance.

Top Tech Stocks for Buying Amid S&P 500's Surge

Recently released data from the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index revealed that inflation increased in March. The core PCE price index, which excludes energy and food prices, went up by 0.3% last month, reaching an annual rate of 2.8% (unchanged from February). That was above the 2.7% estimate from the Dow Jones consensus.

George Mateyo, chief investment officer at Key Wealth, cautioned against assuming that inflation concerns have completely dissipated and that the Federal Reserve will imminently cut interest rates. He said, “The prospects of rate cuts remain, but they are not assured, and the Fed will likely need weakness in the labor market before they have the confidence to cut.”

Meanwhile, consumers continued to spend despite the elevated price levels. Personal spending increased by 0.8% for the month, slightly surpassing the 0.7% estimate. Personal income increased by 0.5%, aligning with expectations and exceeding the 0.3% rise in February.

The S&P 500 index capped off its best week since November as it rose around 2.7% to snap its streak of three straight weekly losses, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 4.2%, marking its first positive week in five. The broad market index is currently up more than 7% year-to-date. Stocks have surged lately as Big Tech names rallied on solid earnings and traders closely analyzing the latest inflation data.

Mona Mahajan, senior investment strategist at Edward Jones, noted, “We are finishing a volatile week on a strong note. It’s nice to see some green on the screen. Clearly one of the drivers has been the stellar reports coming out of megacap technology.”

Tech giants, including Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA), and Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL), reported impressive earnings lately, and the message conveyed to Wall Street is simple and straightforward: enterprise spending on A will likely remain steady in the foreseeable future.

GOOGL soared over 10% on better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, marking its best day since July 2015. Additionally, the company announced its first-ever dividend payable to its shareholders on June 17, 2024, and a $70 billion buyback. Meanwhile, Microsoft gained nearly 2% after reporting robust fiscal third-quarter results, with a notable growth in its cloud business.

Let’s delve deeper into the fundamentals and growth prospects of MSFT, NVDA, and GOOGL:

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)

One of the most popular and sought-after software companies, Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), barely requires any introduction. It has a market capitalization of whooping $2.99 trillion.

With a strong foothold in the cloud, the tech giant continues to pursue innovations in the artificial technology (AI) front, with AI-powered Bing and Microsoft 365 Copilot. Moreover, the partnership with ChatGPT creator OpenAI has given MSFT another edge over its competitors.

On April 23, the company introduced Phi-3-mini, a lightweight AI model aimed at broadening its client base with cost-effective options. Phi-3-mini is immediately available on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, Hugging Face’s machine learning model platform, and Ollama for local machine deployment.

On the same day, MSFT announced a five-year strategic partnership with The Coca-Cola Company (KO) to accelerate AI transformation enterprise-wide and across its global network of independent bottlers. In addition, on April 22, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation (CTSH) announced a partnership with MSFT to expand the adoption of generative AI in the enterprise and realize strategic business transformation.

In the same month, the company also expanded its work with G42 to accelerate responsible AI innovation in the United Arab Emirates and beyond while accelerating digital transformation securely across the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa with expanded access to services and technologies.

Given the AI boom, such strategic partnerships make it a contender in the high-growth segments of the tech market that matter.

Driven by its Intelligent Cloud revenue with a 21% increase, the company posted impressive earnings for the third quarter that ended March 31, 2024. MSFT’s total revenue increased 17% year-over-year to $61.86 billion. Thanks to the booming demand for its cloud solutions, the company’s Cloud revenue surged 23% year-over-year to $35.10 billion.

"Microsoft Copilot and Copilot stack spanning everyday productivity, business process and developer services to models, data and infrastructure are orchestrating a new era of AI transformation, driving better business outcomes across every role and industry," chief executive officer Satya Nadella said in a statement, referring to Microsoft’s AI services.

Further, Microsoft’s operating income rose 23.4% from the year-ago value to $27.58 billion. Its net income and earnings per share came in at $21.94 billion and $2.94, up 19.9% and 20% year-over-year, respectively. In addition, the company’s cash inflow from operating activities grew 30.6% from the prior year’s period to $31.92 billion.

Looking ahead, Street expects MSFT’s revenue and EPS to rise 14.6% and 8.5% year-over-year to $64.42 billion and $2.92 in the fourth quarter ending June 2024, respectively. It’s no surprise that the company has topped the consensus revenue and EPS estimates in each of the four trailing quarters.

Moreover, Microsoft boasts an impressive trailing-12-month ROCE and net income margin of 38.49% and 36.43%, significantly higher than the industry averages of 3.36%and 2.64%, respectively. Also, the stock’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 69.89% is 43.6% higher than the 48.66% industry average.

Shares of MSFT continue to shine this year, following robust third-quarter 2024 earnings. The stock has gained nearly 7% year-to-date and more than 36% over the past year.

NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA)

Having originated in designing GPUs for consumer gaming, NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA) has shifted its focus to making hardware for data centers, and it is at the forefront of enabling AI capabilities for a broad range of applications. Its market capitalization stands at $2.19 trillion.

While gaming remains a core market for NVDA, its reach extends far beyond. Given the rapidly evolving technological landscape, the company has leveraged its expertise in chip design and computing power to stay at the forefront of emerging trends and capitalize on new market opportunities.

Recently, the company announced that SEA.AI Linz, an Austria-based start-up and its Metropolis partner, would use AI and machine vision technology powered by NVIDIA's Jetson edge AI platform to enhance safety in sea travel by quickly detecting and alerting operators to potential hazards.

On April 25, the company posted that a line-up of NVIDIA automotive partners unveiled their latest offerings (at Auto China), powered by NVIDIA DRIVE, the leading platform for AI-driven vehicles. It also stated that several automakers are developing next-generation vehicles using NVIDIA DRIVE Orin.

Also, on April 24, NVDA announced its acquisition of Run:ai, a provider of GPU orchestration software, in a move to enhance the efficiency of AI computing resources. Run:ai, an Israeli start-up, specializes in Kubernetes-based workload management, enabling efficient cluster resource utilization for AI workloads across shared accelerated computing infrastructure.

Through this platform, enterprise customers can effectively manage and optimize their compute infrastructure, spanning on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments.

NVDA's fourth quarter saw over 3x year-over-year increase to $22.10 billion, resulting in a 22% gain versus the previous quarter. Its Data Center group chalked up $18.40 billion in revenue for the quarter, resulting in a 27% sequential gain and a massive 409% lift over the same period last year. NVIDIA’s Data Center business (primarily connected to its AI operations) is among its highest-margin businesses.

NVIDIA’s founder and CEO, Jensen Huang, believes that accelerated computing and generative AI have hit a “tipping point,” with broad-based demand observed in the market. He added that the demand for data processing, training, and inference from large cloud-service providers and GPU-specialized ones, as well as from enterprise software and consumer internet companies, have been the driving force for the Data Center unit.

Moreover, the company’s non-GAAP operating income and non-GAAP net income grew significantly from the prior year period (and each 28% up quarter-over-quarter) to $14.75 billion and $12.84 billion, respectively. Its non-GAAP EPS came in at $5.16, compared to $0.88 in the prior year’s quarter.

Per its financial guidance, NVIDIA expects net revenue to be $24 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2025, representing a projected 9% sequential gain. Its non-GAAP gross margin is expected to be at 77%.

Analysts expect NVDA’s revenue and EPS for the first quarter (ending April 2024) to increase substantially by 238.4% and 407.9% year-over-year to $24.34 billion and $5.54, respectively. Additionally, the company surpassed consensus revenue estimates in each of the trailing four quarters, which is impressive.

The stock’s trailing-12-month ROCE, ROTC, and ROTA of 91.46%, 46.75%, and 45.28% are significantly higher than the industry averages of 3.36%, 2.32%, and 1.29%, respectively. Also, its trailing-12-month net income margin of 48.85% compares to the industry average of 2.64%.

Moreover, the shares of the GPU giant have returned more than 117% over the past six months and nearly 77% year-to-date.

Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL)

With a market cap of $2.15 trillion, Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) is known for its pioneering internet-related services and products. Amidst the rise of generative artificial intelligence, Google's parent company is making notable advancements, as indicated by its escalating capital expenditures and aggressive moves in artificial intelligence.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai attributed the company’s significant success to its investments in AI, including the large language model and suite of AI products, including Gemini.

“We are well under way with our Gemini era and there’s great momentum across the company. Our leadership in AI research and infrastructure, and our global product footprint, position us well for the next wave of AI innovation,” Pichai said.

On April 23, GOOGL announced a €600 million ($642.98 million) investment plan for a new data center in Groningen, Netherlands, to create 125 job opportunities. This investment contributes to the company’s cumulative investment in Dutch data infrastructure, which has exceeded €3.80 billion ($4.07 billion) since 2014.

In the fiscal 2024 first quarter ended March 31, 2024, GOOGL reported revenues of $80.54 billion, up 15.4% year-over-year. Its income from operations grew 46.3% from the prior year’s quarter to $25.47 billion. Net income and earnings per share came in at $23.33 billion and $1.89, representing increases of 57.2% and 61.5% year-over-year, respectively.

In addition, the tech company’s cash and cash equivalents amounted to $24.49 billion as of March 31, 2024, compared to $24.05 billion as of December 31, 2023.

Street expects GOOGL’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal second quarter (ending June 2024) to increase 12.5% and 27.5% year-over-year to $83.90 billion and $1.84, respectively. Also, the company has topped the consensus EPS and revenue estimates in all four trailing quarters.

Besides, GOOGL’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 57.47% is 16.9% higher than the 49.13% industry average. Likewise, the stock’s trailing-12-month net income margin, ROCE, and ROTC of 25.90%, 29.76%, and 19.82% compare to the industry averages of 2.53%, 2.86%, and 3.28%, respectively.

GOOGL’s stock has climbed over 35% over the past six months and is up nearly 18% year-to-date.

Bottom Line

Judging from the recent strategic initiatives, it’s clear that the tech giants have been investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AI). These investments reflect their recognition of the importance of AI in driving innovation, improving products and services, and staying competitive in the rapidly evolving tech landscape.

With Microsoft’s Copilot and Google’s Gemini, big companies such as Meta Platforms, Inc. (META) and c are joining the race to make sure they keep up with AI and don’t miss out on the vast market that could be worth more than $1 trillion in the next ten years.

Moreover, the tech landscape remains a bright spot, with more and more people engaging in online activities, ranging from remote working and online learning to entertainment and shopping. Plus, the rapid adoption of cloud computing, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, machine learning, digital communication, blockchain, and 5G technology will continue to push the industry forward.

Lately, Big Tech stocks have played a crucial role in driving the S&P 500 to notch its best week since November, contributing to market optimism despite lingering inflation concerns. Amid the S&P’s surge, top-performing tech stocks MSFT, NVDA, and GOOGL could be wise additions to your portfolios for potential gains.

Which Beverage Stocks Could Face the Heat After Sugar Tax Impact?

Several sugar-sweetened drinks are packed with calories, which provide little to no nutritional value and can lead to chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, cancer, tooth decay, and type 2 diabetes. Further, higher consumption of sugary beverages has been associated with an increased risk of premature death.

According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, even one serving daily of a sugary soft drink is linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Reducing Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Nearly nine U.S. jurisdictions and over 50 countries have implemented some form of consumer tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, particularly by taxing distributors who then pass the cost along to consumers, said Author Scott Kaplan, an assistant professor of economics at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Some U.S. cities have enacted taxes on sugary drinks at checkout, typically at the rate of 1% to 2%, Kaplan added. Other cities tax those beverages by the ounce, which increases the overall price of the product.

“Maybe you spend $1 on a 12-ounce can of soda,” he said. “If it’s a 2 cent per ounce tax, that’s an additional 24 cents on your dollar.”

The analysis, published Friday in JAMA Health Forum, evaluated per-ounce tax plans by ZIP code in Boulder, Colorado; Oakland, California; Philadelphia; Seattle; and San Francisco. The study analyzed how consumers change their consumption in response to price changes.

According to this new analysis of restrictions implemented in five U.S. cities, increasing the price of sugar-sweetened sodas, coffees, teas, and energy, sports, and fruit drinks by an average of 31% lowered consumer purchases of those drinks by a third.

“For every 1% increase in price, we found a 1% decrease in purchases of these products,” Kaplan said. “The decrease in consumer purchases occurred almost immediately after the taxes were put in place and stayed that way over the next three years of the study.”

William Dermody, Vice President of Media and Public Affairs for the American Beverage Association, told CNN that such taxes are “unproductive” and hurt consumers, small business, and their employees.

“The beverage industry’s strategy of offering consumers more choices with less sugar, smaller portion sizes and clear calorie information is working – today nearly 60% of all beverages sold have zero sugar and the calories that people get from beverages has decreased to its lowest level in decades,” Dermody added.

4 Beverage Stocks Which Might Be Vulnerable in the Aftermath of Raised Sugary Drink Prices

The Coca-Cola Company (KO), a world-famous beverage company, could face the heat after the impact of the sugar tax. Evolving consumer preferences with an enhanced focus on health and wellness coupled with sustainability have pushed soda makers across the globe to de-emphasize diet branding as they sharpen their focus on zero-sugar offerings.

KO sells its products under the Coca-Cola, Diet Coke/Coca-Cola Light, Cola Zero Sugar, Fanta, Sprite, and other brands. The company is constantly transforming its portfolio, from reducing sugar in its drinks to bringing innovative new products to the market.

Consumers worldwide are also turning to sparkling water as the low-sugar, low-calorie substitute for soda and other sugary drinks. On October 26, 2023, KO announced that its 500 ml sparkling beverage bottles in Canada will be made with recycled plastic by early 2024. This marked the first time sparking drinks will be sold in bottles made from 100% recycled plastic across the country.

Coca-Cola paid a dividend of 46 cents ($0.46) to shareholders on December 15, 2023. The beverage company has raised its dividend for 61 consecutive years. Its annual dividend of $1.84 translates to a yield of 3.08% on the current share price. The company’s dividend payouts have increased at a 3.4% CAGR over the past five years.

KO’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 59.14% is 75.4% higher than the 33.72% industry average. Likewise, its 31.46% trailing-12-month EBITDA margin is 179.4% higher than the industry average of 11.26%. Also, the stock’s 23.92% trailing-12-month net income margin is significantly higher than the industry average of 4.90%.

For the third quarter that ended September 29, 2023, KO’s non-GAAP net operating revenues increased 7.8% year-over-year to $11.91 billion. Its non-GAAP gross profit grew 10.2% year-over-year to $7.20 billion. Its non-GAAP operating income rose 8.5% from the previous year’s quarter to $3.54 billion.

In addition, the beverage giant’s non-GAAP net income came in at $3.21 billion, or $0.74 per share, up 6.6% and 7.2% year-over-year, respectively.

“We delivered an overall solid quarter and are raising our full-year topline and bottom-line guidance in light of our year-to-date performance,” said James Quincey, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company.

As per the updated full-year 2023 guidance, KO expects to deliver non-GAAP revenue growth of 10%. The company’s non-GAAP EPS growth is expected to be 7% to 8%, versus $2.48 in 2022. It further anticipates generating a non-GAAP free cash flow of nearly $9.50 billion.

Analysts expect KO’s revenue and EPS for the fourth quarter (ended December 2023) to increase 4% and 7.6% year-over-year to $10.59 billion and $0.48, respectively. Moreover, the company surpassed consensus revenue and EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters.

Another beverage stock, PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP), might have to deal with the storm following the sugar tax impact. The company operates in seven segments: Frito-Lay North America; Quaker Foods North America; PepsiCo Beverages North America; Latin America; Europe; Africa, Middle East and South Asia; and Asia Pacific, Australia and New Zealand and China Region.

On November 14, PEP announced two new ambitious nutrition goals as part of PepsiCo Positive (pep+) – the company’s end-to-end strategic transformation – which aims at reducing sodium and purposefully delivering important sources of nutrition in the foods consumers are reaching for.

By 2030, PepsiCo aims for at least 75% of its global convenient food portfolio volume to meet or be below category sodium targets.

PEP’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin and EBIT margin of 54.03% and 14.59% are 60.2% and 73.1% higher than the industry averages of 33.72% and 8.43%, respectively. Also, the stock’s trailing-12-month levered FCF margin of 6.86% is 41.2% higher than the industry average of 4.86%.

PEP pays a dividend of $5.06 per share annually, translating to a 3% yield on the prevailing price. Its four-year average dividend yield is 2.72%. The company’s dividend payouts have grown at a CAGR of 7.1% over the past three years. PepsiCo has raised dividends for 51 consecutive years.

PEP’s net revenue increased 6.7% year-over-year to $23.45 billion in the third quarter that ended September 9, 2023. Its non-GAAP gross profit grew 8.8% from the year-ago value to $12.77 billion. Its non-GAAP operating profit increased 12.1% year-over-year to $4.03 billion.

Further, the company’s non-GAAP attributable net income came in at $3.11 billion and $2.25 per share, indicating increases of 13.7% and 14.2% year-over-year, respectively.

Street expects PEP’s revenue and EPS for the fourth quarter (ended December 2023) to increase 1.5% and 3.1% year-over-year to $28.42 billion and $1.72, respectively. Moreover, the company surpassed the consensus revenue and EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters, which is remarkable.

Third stock, Monster Beverage Corporation (MNST), known for its energy beverages and concentrates, could also be impacted by sugary drink taxes, which are resulting in a sharp drop in consumer sales.

On November 8, MNST’s Board of Directors authorized a new share repurchase program for the repurchase of up to an additional $500 million of the company’s outstanding common stock. As of November 7, nearly $282.8 million remained available for repurchase under the company’s previously authorized repurchase program.

MNST’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 52.58% is 55.9% higher than the 33.72% industry average. Its 28.81% trailing-12-month EBITDA margin is 155.8% higher than the industry average of 11.26%. Also, the stock’s 22.62% trailing-12-month net income margin is considerably higher than the industry average of 4.90%.

During the third quarter of 2023, the company continued the roll-out of its first flavored malt beverage alcohol product, The Beast Unleashed™, with the goal of being available in substantially all the U.S. by the end of 2023.  Further, Nasty Beast™, its new hard tea, will be launched initially in four flavors, in 12 oz. variety packs and 24 oz single-serve cans, early this year.

MNST’s net sales increased 14.3% year-over-year to $1.86 billion in the third quarter that ended September 30, 2023. Its gross profit was $983.76 million, up 18% from the prior year’s quarter. The company’s net income came in at $452.69 million, or $0.43 per common share, compared to $322.39 million, or $0.30 per common share, in the prior year’s period, respectively.

Analysts expect MNST’s revenue for the fourth quarter (ended December 2023) to grow 16.1% year-over-year to $1.76 billion. The consensus EPS estimate of $0.39 for the same period indicates an improvement of 36.5% year-over-year.

Lastly, Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. (KDP) could be vulnerable to the aftereffects of increased sugary beverage prices. From carbonated soft drinks to premium waters and everything in between, Keurig Dr Pepper provides a diverse portfolio of ready-to-drink beverages to satisfy every consumer’s need.

On December 7, KDP announced that its Board of Directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.215 per share, payable on January 19, 2024. The company’s annual dividend of $0.86 translates to a yield of 2.69% of the current share price.

Also, on October 26, KDP and Grupo PiSA announced that Keurig Dr Pepper will sell, distribute, and merchandise Electrolit®, a premium hydration beverage, across the U.S. as part of a long-term sales and distribution agreement.

The long-term partnership extends KDP’s portfolio into sports hydration, a key white space category for the company, and is designed to considerably expand Electrolit’s distribution and continue the brand’s accelerated growth.

KDP’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 53.50% is 58.6% higher than the 33.72% industry average. Likewise, the stock’s trailing-12-month EBITDA margin of 26.64% is 136.6% higher than the industry average of 11.26%. Furthermore, its 13.16% trailing-12-month net income margin is 168.8% higher than the industry average of 4.90%.

For the third quarter that ended September 30, 2023, KDP’s net sales increased 5.1% year-over-year to $3.81 billion. Its gross profit grew 11% year-over-year to $2.11 billion. Its income from operations rose 127.4% from the year-ago value to $896 million. Also, net income attributable to KDP and EPS came in at $518 million and $0.37, up 187.8% and 184.6% year-over-year, respectively.

As per its guidance for the full year 2023, KDP expects net sales growth of 5% to 6%. The company’s adjusted EPS growth is projected to be 6% to 7%.

Analysts expect KDP’s revenue and EPS for the fourth quarter (ended December 2023) to grow 3.1% and 8.6% year-over-year to $3.92 billion and $0.54, respectively. Moreover, the company surpassed consensus revenue estimates in each of the trailing four quarters.

Bottom Line

According to a recent study conducted by JAMA Health Forum, five U.S. cities that imposed taxes on sugary beverages saw prices rise and a drop in consumer sales by 33%.

With sugar-sweetened drinks considered known contributors to several health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, taxes on those drinks are implemented to lower consumption. Reduced consumer sales because of these taxes could be pretty alarming for several beverage stocks, including KO, PEP, MNST, and KDP.

The beverage industry is not just about traditional drinks anymore. With a significant surge in health awareness among consumers and the global shift toward sustainability, companies are innovating their products to meet the new demands.

Beverage firms are consistently working toward reducing sugar content in their products or are introducing zero-sugar offerings to cater to health-conscious consumers. Also, the introduction of additional healthy ingredients by different industry players is gaining traction. For example, probiotic drinks, green teas, and beverages infused with minerals and vitamins.

Like any other industry, the beverage sector has its share of opportunities and challenges. As the industry evolves, companies that fail to innovate or adapt to changing consumer preferences risk losing market share.

Given these factors, it seems prudent to wait for a better entry point in beverage stocks KO, PEP, MNST, and KDP. While the industry-wide challenges could impact these stocks in the near term, they appear in good shape to thrive in the long run.

Build a Secure Portfolio with these 5 Stocks Amid 15-Year High Treasury Yield

Last month, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell announced the unanimous decision by the FOMC to raise key interest rates by another 25 bps. With this move, the central bank has raised the benchmark borrowing cost to 5.25%-5.50.

With a 2.6% rise in inflation, down from a 4.1% rise in Q1 and well below the estimate for a gain of 3.2%, and an annualized increase of 2.4% in the gross domestic product in the second quarter, topping the 2% estimate, the belief that Jerome Powell and his team at the Federal Reserve may be on the cusp of achieving the elusive “soft landing” was gaining strength in the market.

However, ECB raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point shortly after, citing persistent inflation. Moreover, the recently released minutes of the Fed’s July 25-26 policy meeting reveal broad expectations of ‘upside risks’ to inflation, leading to a fresh realization that rates could stay higher for longer, contrary to some initial forecasts and hopes of cuts starting in 2024.

In such a scenario, despite increased optimism, businesses are expected to remain weighed down by high borrowing costs, and economic activity is expected to remain stifled due to relatively scarce credit.

Moreover, with every increase in benchmark interest rates, a selloff of long-duration fixed-income instruments, such as the 10-year treasury notes, gets triggered, which causes a slump in their market value and a consequent increase in their yields. This also increases the benchmark 30-year mortgage rates, thereby depressing demand and deepening the crisis in which real estate has lately been finding itself.

Last week, as the 10-year Treasury yield rose to 4.307% from 4.258%, settling at its highest closing level since 2007, and the 30-year Treasury yield hit a 12-year high, rising to 4.411%, there is still a significant probability that in order to overcompensate for the infamous “transitory” call that caused the Fed to arrive (really) late in its fight against demand-driven inflation, the central bank may be sowing the seeds of economic stagflation.

An increase in borrowing costs would not just raise the cost of servicing the $32.7 trillion national debt; significant markdowns and prices of legacy bonds could crush the loan portfolios of banks that could share the same fate as the Silicon Valley Bank and the First Republic Bank. In this context, S&P's move to downgrade multiple U.S. banks citing ‘tough’ operating conditions hardly comes as a surprise.

Speaking of banks, the Bank of Japan’s policy tweak loosened its yield curve control, sparking widespread shock in the markets. To compound the miseries further, after placing the country on negative watch amid the debt-ceiling standoff at Capitol Hill back in May, Fitch Ratings recently downgraded U.S. long-term rating to AA+ from AAA, citing the erosion of confidence in fiscal management.

With HSBC Asset Management’s warning that a U.S. recession is coming this year, with Europe to follow in 2024, gaining credibility with each passing day, being diligent investors confident enough to increase their stakes in fundamentally strong businesses could be a time-tested method to navigate potential turbulence ahead.

Here are a few stocks which could be worthy of consideration:

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

JNJ has been around for 135 years and is a worldwide researcher, developer, manufacturer, and seller of various healthcare products. The company operates through three segments: Consumer Health; Pharmaceuticals; and MedTech.

Over the past three years, which have been turbulent, to say the least, JNJ’s revenue has grown at a 6.7% CAGR. During the same period, the company also registered EBITDA and total asset growth of 8.2% and 6.6%, respectively.

Despite flagging sales of Covid 19 Vaccines, JNJ’s reported sales during the fiscal year 2023 second quarter increased by 6.3% year-over-year to $25.53 billion. During the same period, the company’s adjusted net earnings increased by 6.5% and 8.1% year-over-year to $7.36 billion and $2.80 per share, respectively.

In addition to its robust financials, the relative immunity of its demand and margins to potential economic downturns make it an attractive investment option for solid risk-adjusted returns.

Merck & Company, Inc. (MRK)

MRK is a global healthcare company offering prescription medicines, vaccines, biological therapies, and animal health products. The company operates through Pharmaceuticals and Animal Health segments.

Over the past three years, MRK’s revenue has grown at a 9.9% CAGR, while its total assets have grown at a 4.9% CAGR.

On August 3, MRK announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an expanded indication for ERVEBO, which is now indicated for the prevention of disease caused by Zaire ebolavirus in individuals 12 months of age and older. The vaccine was previously approved for use in individuals of age 18 years and older.

On July 25, MRK announced a quarterly dividend of $0.73 per share of the company’s common stock for the fourth quarter of 2023. Payment will be made on October 6, 2023, to shareholders of record at the close of business on September 15, 2023.

MRK pays $2.92 annually as dividends. Its 4-year average dividend yield of 2.96% exceeds the industry average of 1.32%. The company has increased its dividend payouts over the past 12 years and at a 9.6% CAGR over the past five years.

During the second quarter of the fiscal year 2023, MRK’s revenue increased by 3% year-over-year to $15.04 billion. Excluding the $10.2 billion, or $4.02 per share, charge for the acquisition of Prometheus Biosciences, Inc. (Prometheus), the company’s non-GAAP net income increased by 5% and 4.8% year-over-year to $4.98 billion and $1.96 per share, respectively.

Analysts expect MRK’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal third quarter to increase by 1.7% and 4.9% year-over-year to $15.22 billion and $1.94, respectively. The company has further impressed by surpassing consensus EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters.

The Coca-Cola Company (KO)

As a world-renowned beverage company, KO manufactures, markets, and sells various non-alcoholic beverages. The company operates through six segments: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; Latin America; North America; Asia Pacific; Global Ventures; and Bottling Investments.

Over the last three years, which included a pandemic of all things, KO’s revenues have grown at an 8.7% CAGR, while its EBITDA has grown at 7.1% CAGR. The company’s net income has grown at a 4.6% CAGR during the same period.

On July 12, KO and its eight bottling partners from around the world announced the creation of a new $137.7 million venture capital fund focusing on sustainability investments. The fund would focus on key investments in packaging, decarbonization, and other initiatives with the potential to reduce KO’s system-wide carbon footprint.

During the fiscal 2023 second quarter, KO’s net revenue grew 6% year-over-year to $12 billion, while its organic (non-GAAP) revenue grew 11% year-over-year. During the same period, the company’s comparable (non-GAAP) EPS also grew 11% year-over-year to $0.78.

In concurrence with the company’s raised guidance, analysts expect KO’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal year 2023 to increase by 4.6% and 6.4% year-over-year to $45.02 billion and $2.64, respectively. Both metrics are expected to keep growing over the next two fiscals to come in at $49.92 and $3.03, respectively.

PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP)

PEP is a global manufacturer, marketer, distributor, and seller of beverages and convenience foods. The company operates through seven segments: Frito-Lay North America; Quaker Foods North America; PepsiCo Beverages North America; Latin America; Europe; Africa, Middle East, and South Asia; Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and China Region.

Over the last three years, PEP’s revenues have grown at a 10% CAGR, while its EBITDA has grown at 7.7% CAGR. The company’s net income has grown at 4.9% CAGR during the same period.

On July 20, PEP announced its quarterly dividend of $1.265 per share, which translates to an annual dividend of $5.06. This signifies a 10 percent increase year-over-year. This dividend is payable on September 29, 2023, to shareholders of record at the close of business on September 1, 2023.

This marks PEP’s 51st consecutive annual dividend increase at a rate of 7.1% CAGR over the past five years.

During the fiscal 2023 second quarter, PEP’s organic (non-GAAP) revenue increased by 13% year-over-year, while its core (non-GAAP) EPS of $2.09 translated to a 15% year-over-year growth.

For fiscal year 2023, PEP now expects to deliver 10% organic revenue growth (previously 8%) and 12% core constant currency EPS growth (previously 9%).

Duke Energy Corporation (DUK)

As an energy company, DUK operates through two segments: Electric Utilities and Infrastructure (EU&I) and Gas Utilities and Infrastructure (GU&I).

Over the past three years, DUK’s revenue increased at a 6% CAGR, while its EBITDA has increased by 4.5% CAGR over the same time horizon.

On July 13, DUK announced its quarterly cash dividend of $1.025 per share of common stock, an increase of $0.02, and $359.375 per share on its Series A preferred stock, equivalent to $0.359375 per depositary share, payable on Sept.18, 2023.

DUK currently pays $4.10 per share of common stock as annual dividends, which have grown for the past 11 years and at 2.4% CAGR over the past five years. Through the consistent return of capital, DUK provides adequate income generation opportunities for investors to help them tide over economic uncertainty.

On August 15 and August 17, DUK filed a resource plan, and an updated Carbon Plan to serve the growing energy needs projected for South and North Carolina, respectively.

On July 6, DUK unveils Kentucky's largest utility-scale rooftop solar site, consisting of over 5,600 photovoltaic panels, at Amazon Air Hub. It will feed up to 2 megawatts of solar power directly onto the electric distribution grid.

For the six months of the fiscal that ended June 30, 2023, DUK’s total operating revenues and operating income increased by 2.1% and 12.4% year-over-year to $13.85 billion and $3.10 billion, respectively. As a result, the company’s net income and adjusted EPS for the period came in at $531 million or $2.10 per share, respectively.