Not many stocks were left standing when the Dow Jones industrial average crashed by 504 points on Sept. 15—the worst drop since the September 11 terrorist attacks. One stock that did stand firmly was Coca-Cola (KO), the world's largest soft drink company. When the tsunami-like wave of selling was done on that frenzied day, Coca-Cola's stock stood at 54.75, up from the previous session's closing price of 54.50.
True, it was a razor-thin rise, but considering the devastation in the marketplace that day, just staying upright was a mighty accomplishment, as the financial giants lost some 20% to 94% of their value. Nonfinancials also got ravaged, including General Electric (GE), which tumbled 8.04%, ExxonMobil (XOM) 5.48%, Sprint Nextel (S) 5.70%, Intel (INTC) 3.97%, and Merck (MRK) 3.25%.
For a while there, Coke seemed to have lost its fizz. From 2003 through 2006, its shares traversed a narrow range, meandering between 37 to 50. In 2007, the stock came back, trading up to a high of 65 by early January 2008. But then the stock got caught in the market's subprime-mortgage-driven decline in July, which yanked Coke down to a 52-week low of 49.60. Since then, it's eased back to the mid-50s.Buffett's Beverage
That's because Wall Street appears to have rediscovered Coca-Cola. Of the 17 analysts who follow Coke, not one recommends selling the stock, and all but two tag the stock a buy. Two analysts rate it a hold. (It's also reassuring that Coke's largest stakeholder is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), which owns an 8.6% stake.)
One Coca-Cola bull is Esther Kwon, an analyst at Standard & Poor's Equity Research who rates Coke a strong buy, with a 12-month price target of 62, based on her analysis of its historical price-earnings ratio. (S&P, like BusinessWeek, is owned by McGraw-Hill (MHP).)