CEO on the hot seat: Neville Isdell, Coca-Cola
Isdell needs to move beyond soda pop to generate real growth...it won't be easy.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE Magazine) - Neville Isdell, Coke's third CEO since 1997, needs to wean Coke off...well, Coke. After years of steady expansion, mostly overseas, soda has become a zero-growth business.
But carbonated soft drinks still account for 85 percent of Coke's profits. Finding businesses with profit margins as sweet as soda pop's isn't easy. And running the world's largest beverage company, with a market value of $100 billion, Isdell has to hit some very big home runs to make any impact.
Isdell's most valuable resource is Coke's massive network of bottlers, which spans some 200 countries. Isdell is launching hundreds of new products, hoping to make big inroads with noncarbonated beverages like Full Throtle and Rockstar energy drinks.
And he appears to be warming to the idea of using Coke's $5 billion cash hoard for acquisitions that would diversify the company into food and other consumer goods.
Coke (Research) shares have fallen about 20 percent from their 2005 high and now sell for 19 times trailing earnings, on a par with the S&P 500. It's not a terrible price for a stock that typically trades for a premium. But it's hard to see how the company is going to generate any excitement soon.