The Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) is expected to declare its quarterly dividends in the coming weeks. The question on the minds of many investors is what kind of a dividend the company would declare. Will Coca-Cola keep the dividend amount same as last year to give it a boost? The company has raised dividends consistently in the recent years, but conditions have also changed.
Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) finished 2015 with long-term debt of $28.4 billion, offset by $19.9 billion of cash and short-term investment. The company has been taking more debt to apparently take advantage of the low interest rates. Despite its current debt position, Coca-Cola still has a fairly flexible balance sheet that favors improve return to shareholders.
Share count reduction
Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) has been able to reduce its outstanding share count through buybacks. In 2015, the company spent $2.3 billion on purchases that resulted in elimination of 42 million shares, thus reducing the outstanding share count by 0.96%. It is worth noting that Coca-Cola repurchased more shares in 2015 than it did in 2014.
Because of fewer shares in circulation thanks to buybacks, Coca-Cola can increase dividend paid per share without actually increasing the overall amount it distributes to shareholders.
Can the dividend pattern hold true?
Looking at how Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) has adjusted dividend payouts in the past reveals a pattern. But what is not clear is whether the pattern will hold true when it finally declares dividend in the coming week. For example, in 2015, the company guided EPS growth (in constant currency terms) in the range of mid-single digit. In that year, Coca-Cola boosted dividends by 8.2%, thus taking quarterly dividend payout to $0.33 per share.
In the current year, Coca-Cola is guiding EPS growth of 4% to 6%, which is within the mid-single digits bracket.
The smaller number of outstanding shares, flexible balance sheet and the dividend/EPS trends point strongly to a possible dividend lift by Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) in 2016.