CHICAGO, May 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog includethe Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (Nasdaq:GMCR-Free Report), Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO-Free Report), Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (NYSE:DPS-Free Report), Pepsico, Inc. (NYSE:PEP-Free Report) andSimplicity Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq:SMPL-Free Report).
Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:
2 Soft Drink Stocks with "Pop"
Tuesday's top gainer on the S&P 500 was Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (Nasdaq:GMCR-Free Report). Shares of the specialty coffee retailer gained 7.6% after The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO-Free Report) said that its subsidiary, Atlantic Industries, raised its stake in the coffee-brewer manufacturer to 16% from 10%.
What's in It for Coke?
Coca-Cola is buying another 2.8 million shares of Keurig for $107.76 per share. This move will make Coca-Cola the largest shareholder of Keurig. This development is in keeping with Keurig's 10-year partnership deal with Coca-Cola as part of its strategy to step into the world of cold beverages.
But the deal is equally important for Coke, which gained 0.7% after the announcement. The deal provides the soft drink giant entry into the 'single-serve at home' format and a segment which is far removed from its traditional offerings.
Decline in Diet Sodas
In the recent past, the demand for carbonated drinks has undergone a steady decline. A recent report in The Wall Street Journal based on data from Citi Research said soda sales at U.S. stores had declined 1.9% during the first quarter of 2014. In 2013, retail sales of soft drinks fell for the first time in 15 years. Sales declined 1% to $76.3 billion.
The primary reason for this decline is the fact that consumers are increasingly rejecting drinks which use artificial sweeteners. Earlier, soft drink majors could depend on the diet soft drinks segment to capture consumer dollars lost from conventional products.
But they can no longer do so because consumers are wary of the health effects of artificially sweetened drinks.
Need to Expand Product Portfolio
Companies with wider product portfolios are poised to benefit from this situation. The other option is to expand offerings which utilize natural sweeteners. These drinks would continue to target customers who are looking for low calorie options. At the same time, they would carry none of the health concerns attached to older artificially sweetened drinks.
Below we present two soft drink stocks that have the ability to beat the decline in carbonated drink consumption, each of which also has a good Zacks Rank. The first of them is relatively smaller and is developing naturally sweetened beverages. The second is a soft drink major which has performed impressively, depending largely on its snacks offerings.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (NYSE:DPS-Free Report) owns iconic brands like Dr Pepper, 7UP, Mott's, Snapple and Canada Dry. It manufactures and distributes its products across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The company has begun evaluating naturally flavored options for its iconic brands.
These would use stevia and real sugar as sweeteners. This is a clear indication that the company is responding to consumer concerns and exploring healthier alternatives.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and expects earnings growth of 6.10% in the next financial year. The forward price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) for the current financial year (F1) is 16.50.
Pepsico, Inc. (NYSE:PEP-Free Report) began 2014 on a solid note, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate for both earnings and revenues as snacks once again offset weakness in beverages. While organic snacks volumes grew 2%, beverages were flat in the quarter.
Organic snacks volumes grew 3% in Europe and 4% in developing and emerging markets. In the Americas, beverage volumes remained flat, though improving sequentially like The Coca-Cola Company. Non-carbonated beverages volume grew in the quarter, whereas carbonated soft drinks remained a weak spot due to category headwinds.
Currently the company holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), and has expected earnings growth of 8.7% in the next financial year. It has a P/E (F1) of 19.22.
The strategies adopted by both companies give them the strength to defy the headwinds affecting the soft drinks business. This is why these two stocks are good choices for your portfolio.
Simplicity Bancorp (SMPL) Upgraded to Strong Buy
On May 14, 2014, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Simplicity Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq:SMPL-Free Report) to Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
Why the Upgrade?
Simplicity Bancorp's better-than-expected results in the third quarter of fiscal 2014 as well as a dividend hike were the primary drivers for the rating upgrade. Moreover, in three of the last four trailing quarters, the company scripted positive earnings surprises, with an average earnings beat of 27.6%.
On May 5, Simplicity Bancorp reported earnings of 17 cents per share, outpacing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 21.4%. However, this was a penny below the prior-year quarter figure of 18 cents.
Results benefited from nil provision for loan losses, a 12.7% fall in interest expenses and almost unchanged operating expenses. Also, improvement in asset quality and strong capital and profitability ratios were the other tailwinds.
Total nonperforming assets were $14.7 million, down from $16.0 million as of Jun 30, 2013. Further, allowance for loan losses was 0.69% of total loans, down 12 basis points from Jun 30, 2013 level.
On the flip side, a 4.5% decline in net interest income and a 15.4% decrease in non-interest income was recorded.
Further, on May 1, Simplicity Bancorp announced a 12.5% rise in its quarterly dividend to 9 cents per share. The dividend will be paid on May 30 to shareholders of record as on May 15.
During the last 30 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimates for fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015 have remained stable at 63 cents and 75 cents per share, respectively.
Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.
Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.
Zacks.com is a property of Zacks Investment Research, Inc., which was formed in 1978. The later formation of the Zacks Rank, a proprietary stock picking system; continues to outperform the market by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. The best way to unlock the profitable stock recommendations and market insights of Zacks Investment Research is through our free daily email newsletter; Profit from the Pros. In short, it's your steady flow of Profitable ideas GUARANTEED to be worth your time! Register for your free subscription to Profit from the Pros.
Zacks Investment Research is under common control with affiliated entities (including a broker-dealer and an investment adviser), which may engage in transactions involving the foregoing securities for the clients of such affiliates.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.