Monster Beverage: Global Sales, Potential Takeover Seem More Crucial Factors Than NY-State Probe
You can see how that Wall Street Journal piece revealing the New York attorney general’s investigation into the energy drink business might make investors in Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST) a little nervous. The AG suggests Monster and its competitors may be hiding potential health risks associated with their products, and this sort of accusation can’t be good for business. But there are reasons shareholders are reluctant to dump this investment now.
In the past decade, energy drinks set fire to non-alcoholic drinks sales in the same way Starbucks (SBUX) once breathed new life into the coffee business. Double-digit annual sales growth throughout this century have helped giants like PepsiCo (PEP) and built companies like Monster, which until January was called Hansen Natural. Monster shareholders doubled their money in the past year and a half even with this week’s unpleasantness. A revenue miss earlier this month caused a temporary sell-off, but the market generally reconsidered. No one really believes the great growth is over.
Monster’s nascent moves into international territory leave investors particularly optimistic about its potential. But also propping up Monster shares are bets on a takeover. Monster shares, one might recall, climbed high earlier this year on reports that Coca-Cola (KO) was considering a buyout of the $10 billion market cap company. That post-April slope you see in the Monster share price was Coke denying publicly that any such deal was about to happen. The pull-back on news from a regulatory investigation pales in comparison, as seen in this stock chart.
Hope springs eternal that some deal, with someone, will get done. Either that, or shareholders believe the power of an attorney general is inconsequential next to international thirst for a trendy product. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reportedly investigating whether Monster, Pepsi (it owns the AMP brand) and 5-Hour Energy Drink maker Living Essentials deceive customers about the ingredients, health benefits and health risks of their drinks. Teenagers and young adults have been known to mix energy and alcohol for the predictably dangerous result of being too caffeinated to pass out drunk. The AG is also questioning the promoted effects of ingredients like B-vitamins and ginseng. One can only imagine the repercussions, if any, of the investigation, but state attorneys general can regulate products sold in their borders.
Meanwhile, the valuations on Monster shares remain somewhat oblivious to the scandal. The recent selling, such as it was, dropped the PE ratio to about 33, which is still in that uber-growth territory where analysts fear making buy recommendations. On the other hand, the whole company isn’t quite as expensive as it was. Perhaps Coke will take a second look.