The fizz has returned to Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd: But is it still a buy?

It’s been a rough ride for shareholders of embattled beverage manufacturer Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd (ASX: CCL) in recent years. They’ve had to put up with frequent profit warnings sparked by aggressive competition and diminishing sales, a strong Aussie dollar and a struggling Indonesian division.

Indeed, this string of bad news saw the shares decline as much as 47% from their March 2013 high at one stage, hitting a low of just $8.19 – a price not seen since mid-2009.

However, the company delighted the market last week when it provided an update for its much needed strategic review. Indeed, investors had every right to feel nervous in the lead up to the update, but their reaction has been quite positive with the shares rising 9.1% in the days since.

Now trading at $9.47 per share, is Coca-Cola Amatil presenting as a good buy?

Bringing back the fizz

First, it should be noted that the company is by no means out of the deep end yet, and investors hoping for an overnight fix would be wise to avoid this stock. But the company has shown that it is most certainly on the right track to righting its wrongs. In fact, the company even said it was targeting “a return to mid single-digit growth in earnings per share over the next few years with no further decline expected after 2014”.

In order to rejuvenate its Australian and New Zealand markets, the company will focus on greater marketing techniques as well as product development. For instance, it is now selling 250mL cans (down from the standard 375mL) which is a more affordable option for consumers to consider. Coca-Cola’s new Coke Life product will also be made available in April 2015, which will mark the company’s first new cola product since Coke Zero in 2006.

Pleasingly, both of these products will also appeal to the more health-conscious population. The smaller can will (obviously) contain less calories and sugar while Coke Life is sweetened with stevia leaf extract, giving it 35% less calories than other leading colas. This has been a key area of concern for investors, who were cautious of the growing health trend sweeping across the nation.

Growth bonanza

As a shareholder, it’s also very pleasing to see the company push forward with its growth plans in Indonesia. The Asian region has long been flagged as Coca-Cola Amatil’s major growth market, thanks to its emerging middle-class and population in excess of 240 million people. While we’ll have to give up a 29.4% share in the business to Coca-Cola Amatil’s parent entity, The Coca-Cola Company, the pending deal will also allow for more than $500 million to be injected into the struggling business over the coming years.

While the shares might not be as cheap now as they were a week ago, shareholders can sleep easy knowing that the company is on the right track to improving its business. Who knows where the shares will be next week, or even next month, but I’m very confident that shareholders will enjoy market-beating returns in the long run – particularly thanks to its delicious dividend yield.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman owns shares in Coca-Cola Amatil.

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