When you buy and hold a stock for the long term, you definitely want it to provide a positive return. Furthermore, you'd generally like to see the share price rise faster than the market But Coca-Cola Consolidated, Inc. (NASDAQ:COKE) has fallen short of that second goal, with a share price rise of 70% over five years, which is below the market return. Unfortunately the share price is down 1.8% in the last year.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
During the five years of share price growth, Coca-Cola Consolidated moved from a loss to profitability. That would generally be considered a positive, so we'd expect the share price to be up.
The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of Coca-Cola Consolidated, it has a TSR of 74% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market gained around 26% in the last year, Coca-Cola Consolidated shareholders lost 1.4% (even including dividends). However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 12% per year over half a decade. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Even so, be aware that Coca-Cola Consolidated is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those shouldn't be ignored...
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Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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