Low-cost index funds make it easy to achieve average market returns. But if you invest in individual stocks, some are likely to underperform. For example, the The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) share price return of 25% over three years lags the market return in the same period. On the other hand, the more recent gain of 20% over a year is certainly pleasing.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
Coca-Cola was able to grow its EPS at 75% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. This EPS growth is higher than the 8% average annual increase in the share price. Therefore, it seems the market has moderated its expectations for growth, somewhat.
You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
We know that Coca-Cola has improved its bottom line over the last three years, but what does the future have in store? You can see how its balance sheet has strengthened (or weakened) over time in this free interactive graphic.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. We note that for Coca-Cola the TSR over the last 3 years was 37%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
Coca-Cola shareholders are up 24% for the year (even including dividends). But that return falls short of the market. The silver lining is that the gain was actually better than the average annual return of 8% per year over five year. This could indicate that the company is winning over new investors, as it pursues its strategy. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. To that end, you should be aware of the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Coca-Cola .
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
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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