Is PepsiCo a Buffett Stock?

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As the world's third-richest person and most celebrated investor, Warren Buffett attracts a lot of attention. Thousands try to glean what they can from his thinking processes and track his investments.

We can't know for sure whether Buffett is about to buy PepsiCo (NYS: PEP) -- he hasn't specifically mentioned anything about it to me -- but we can discover whether it's the sort of stock that might interest him. Answering that question could also reveal whether it's a stock that should interest us. In this series, we do just that.

Writing in a recent 10-K, Buffett lays out the qualities he looks for in an investment. In addition to adequate size, proven management, and a reasonable valuation, he demands:

  1. Consistent earnings power.
  2. Good returns on equity with limited or no debt.
  3. Management in place.
  4. Simple, non-techno-mumbo-jumbo businesses.

Does PepsiCo meet Buffett's standards?

1. Earnings power
Buffett is famous for betting on a sure thing. For that reason, he likes to see companies with demonstrated earnings stability.

Let's examine PepsiCo's earnings and free cash flow history:

anImage

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Over the past five years, PepsiCo's earnings have grown steadily.

2. Return on equity and debt
Return on equity is a great metric for measuring both management's effectiveness and the strength of a company's competitive advantage or disadvantage -- a classic Buffett consideration. When considering return on equity, it's important to make sure a company doesn't have an enormous debt burden, because that will skew your calculations and make the company look much more efficient than it is.

Since competitive strength is a comparison between peers, and various industries have different levels of profitability and require different levels of debt, it helps to use an industry context.

PepsiCo generates high returns on equity (29% over the past year, 36% on average over the past five years) while employing a moderate amount of debt -- 112% of equity.

3. Management
CEO Indra Nooyi has been at the job since 2006. Before that, she held a number of other positions at the company over several years.

4. Business
Sugar water and snacks aren't particularly susceptible to wholesale technological disruption. Buffett is actually a major shareholder of peer Coca-Cola.

The Foolish conclusion
So is PepsiCo a Buffett stock? It could very well be. The company exhibits several of the characteristics of a quintessential Buffett investment: consistent earnings, high returns on equity with limited debt, tenured management, and a straightforward business. You can stay up to speed on PepsiCo's progress by adding it to your stock watchlist. If you don't have one yet, you can create a watchlist of your favorite stocks.

At the time this article was published Ilan Moscovitzdoesn't own shares of any company mentioned.You can follow him on Twitter, where he goes by@TMFDada. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo and creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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