Over the last few years, it seems that an ongoing discussion is the trend away from sugary soft drinks to healthier alternatives – or to snazzier, caffeine-laden energy beverages. That’s a little ironic when you look at the direction of PEP’s long-term trend, which is clearly up over the last five years, but has been showing uncertainty for the past year. More recently, the stock has been rallying from a intermediate, downward trend low at around $96 in early May to about $106 per share. Bullish investors will almost certainly be tempted to look at that rally as a strong indication of a trend reversal, and there do appear to be some signs that could be the case. There are other indicators, however that point in the opposite direction, meaning that bullish investors should be very cautious right now about jumping whole-heartedly into long stock or call option trades.
PEP is a stock that, besides some of the elements that I’ll outline below, could be negatively impacted by trade tariffs between the U.S. and its trade partners. The recent imposition of tariffs by the Trump administration on steel and aluminum means that one of this business’ core costs is likely to increase for as long as tariffs and trade tensions continue. I think that this is also an example of a business that won’t simply absorb that increase into their existing cost structure, choosing instead to test consumer’s willingness to pay more for their products.
Fundamental and Value Profile
PepsiCo, Inc. is a global food and beverage company. The Company’s portfolio of brands includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. The Company operates through six segments: Frito-Lay North America (FLNA), Quaker Foods North America (QFNA), North America Beverages (NAB), Latin America, Europe Sub-Saharan Africa (ESSA), and Asia, Middle East and North Africa (AMENA). The FLNA segment includes its branded food and snack businesses in the United States and Canada. The QFNA segment includes its cereal, rice, pasta and other branded food businesses in the United States and Canada. The NAB segment includes its beverage businesses in the United States and Canada. The Latin America segment includes its beverage, food and snack businesses in Latin America. The ESSA segment includes its beverage, food and snack businesses in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. The AMENA segment includes its beverage, food and snack businesses in Asia, Middle East and North Africa. PEP has a current market cap of $149.4 billion.
- Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, sales and earnings both increased only slightly. EPS growth was a little over 2% while sales growth was just higher than 4%. This is reflective, I believe of the general consumer trend I referred to earlier, with a large number of consumer shifting their beverage preferences away from traditional soft drinks.
- Free Cash Flow: PEP has generally healthy free cash flow of a little over $6 billion over the last twelve months. This number has declined from a mid-2016 high of $ billion, and dropped sharply from the last quarter of 2017 from $7.2 billion. A confirmation of this as a generally negative measurement comes from net income versus revenues, which was 10.7% in September of 2017 but is now just over 7% as the most recent quarter.
- Debt to Equity: the company’s debt to equity ratio is 2.91, which is high and by most indications would be a warning sign; however it should also be noted that this is pretty consistent with the Beverages industry. The company’s balance sheet indicates operating profits are adequate to service their debt, with more than adequate cash and liquid assets to supplement any operating shortfall.
- Dividend: PEP pays an annual dividend of $3.71 per share, which translates to an annual yield of 3.5% at the stock’s current price.
- Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for PEP is $7.75 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of 13.63. This is almost twice as high as the industry average, which is 7.7, and almost 50% above the stock’s historical average of 9.2. A move to par with the historical average would put the stock’s price just above $70 per share – more than 30% below its current price, and at levels the stock hasn’t seen since late 2012.
Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.
- Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: PEP’s rally for the last month is pretty easy to see, and contrasted against the strength of the intermediate downward trend I’ve indicated with the diagonal orange line, would normally look like a breakout and subsequent trend reversal. The diagonal red line, however, traces the stock’s long-term downward trend, which has acted as strong resistance over the last couple of days and could be the mechanism that halts the stock’s short-term momentum. Near-term support (or downside) is back around $96, where the rally started last month, while a break the red trend line, to about $108 could give the room to to only around $113 per share before it finds its nearest support. From the standpoint of reward: risk, for a bullish trader that is only about $7 of upside potential versus nearly $10 of downside risk – hardly worth taking a bullish trade right now.
- Near-term Keys: I expect geopolitical concerns could continue to weigh on this stock for the time being. If the stock manages to push to $108, I would look for positive momentum to break through the $113 before looking for a bullish trade. On the other hand, given the stock’s current pivot lower off of trend resistance, the time could be optimal right now for a bearish trade, either by shorting the stock or buying a put option.