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With the NFL playoffs underway, it's difficult to avoid the various beer commercials that make us laugh and encourage us to soak up some suds. It has me thinking about beer companies and which stocks, if any, would be worth owning.

We'll take a look at the large companies along with the smaller publicly traded brewers. Not all of them are poised to beat the market, so we'll distinguish between the investment worthy stocks and the unworthy stocks.

Anheuser- Busch InBev (BUD) is the largest brewing conglomerate with a market cap of $95 billion. It has about 200 brands which include: Budweiser, Bud Light, Beck's, Michelob, and Rolling Rock. It also sells various soft drinks.

BUD is currently undervalued as it is trading at only 2.65 times book value per share. This paints a better valuation picture than its forward PE of 14.13 and PEG of 1.45. It also has a healthy profit margin of 12.87% and earnings per share of $3.08.

The balance sheet shows that BUD has about $3 billion more current liabilities than current assets. However, with $9.9 billion in cash flow from operating activities, BUD should have no problems in paying its short term debt.

BUD pays a 1.6% dividend and it is expected to grow earnings annually at 11.1% for the next five years. This should result in a 12.7% total annual yield for investors over that five year period. That should be enough to edge ahead of the market's expectation of 10.92% annually. This looks like a solid company to invest in with little downside risk.

Molson Coors Brewing Company (TAP) is a $7.96 billion mid-cap brewer. It brews popular brands such as Coors Light, Molson, Pilsner, Keystone Light, and Rickard's Red.

TAP is undervalued as it is currently trading right around its book value per share. However, the stock looks temporarily overbought, so waiting for a pullback before starting a new position would be wise.

TAP has a profit margin of 17.95%, earnings per share of $3.26, and operating cash flow of $609.9 million. It also has levered free cash flow of $334.4 million, so its 2.9% dividend looks safe.

It has grown earnings annually at 12.28% for the last five years. However, its annual earnings expectations for the next five years call for it to grow at only 5.6% for the next five years. If TAP only meets these expectations, investors may lag the market with only an 8.5% total yield. Goldman Sachs said in December 2011 that it maintains a neutral rating on TAP and has a $42 price target for the stock.

The Boston Beer Company (SAM) is a $1.32 billion small cap brewer of the Samuel Adams, Twisted Tea, and Hard Core brands of alcoholic beverages.

SAM looks overvalued at the moment with a forward PE of 24.8, a PEG of 3.06, and a price to book ratio of 7.66. On the plus side, it has a profit margin of 12.42%, earnings per share of $4.35, and an operating cash flow of $72.23 million with zero debt.

Unfortunately, SAM doesn't pay dividends. Although it grew earnings annually at 24.15% the past five years, it is only expected to grow at 9.06% for the next five years. Due to its overvaluation and market lagging earnings expectations, I would avoid SAM as an investment. This would be a stock to revisit after a few quarters.

Craft Brewers Alliance (HOOK) is a $116 million small cap Oregon based brewer that produces the Widmer Brothers, Redhook, and Kona Brewing brands.

Craft Brewers looks good on a valuation basis as it is trading at only 1.1 times book value per share. Its profit margin is smaller than the previous three brewers at 6.07%. It has an operating cash flow of $7.04 million, but its levered free cash flow is a negative ($3.64 million).

It has grown earnings annually at 14.74% for the past five years, but due to limited analyst coverage, it does not have earnings expectations for the next five years. If we use the other brewers' 50% drop in earnings expectations, we can conservatively surmise that HOOK will grow earnings annually by about 7.37% for the next five years. However, that may not be giving it the credit that it deserves. It is possible that HOOK's growth in the past five years can be matched in the next five. Since it is still small, it has the opportunity to expand into new markets and achieve a market beating performance.

Diageo plc (DEO) is a $53.15 billion large cap diverse alcohol beverage producer. It brews beer such as: Guinness stout, Harp lager, and Red Stripe lager. It also produces popular brands such as Captain Morgan, Bailey's Irish Cream, Crown Royal Canadian, Jose Cuervo, Seagram's 7, and a variety of wine brands.

DEO stock is fairly valued with a forward PE ratio of 13.37, a PEG of 1.45, and a price to book ratio of 6.68. It has a sizeable profit margin of 19.12%, earnings per share of 4.66, and operating cash flow of $3.2 billion.

DEO pays a decent dividend of 3.7%. It is expected to grow earnings annually at 10.3% for the next five years. This 14% total annual yield should beat the market provided it meets or beats expectations. I like the fact that Diageo has a diverse portfolio of brands that encompasses beer, wine, and spirits. This should prove to be a good investment over the long term.

Heineken (OTC:HINKY) is a $26.36 billion large cap Netherlands based brewer. Heineken is another diverse alcoholic beverage company with approximately 200 brands under its belt. In addition to the Heineken brand name, some of its other brands include: Amstel, Foster's, Dos Equis, and Newcastle Brown Ale. It also carries wine, spirits, and soft drinks.

Heineken is currently undervalued as the stock is trading at only 2.2 times book value per share. It has a profit margin of 7.9%, earnings per share of $1.43, and an operating cash flow of $3.56 billion. Heineken currently pays a dividend of 2.2% with its levered free cash flow of $2.5 billion.

Despite promotions from the Dos Equis' 'most interesting man in the world', Heineken is only expected to grow earnings annually at 7.9% for the next five years. This is significantly less than the market's expected annual earnings growth of about 10.9%, so I wouldn't suggest investing in Heineken as it will probably lag the market over the next five years, leaving investors thirsting for more.

SABMiller plc (OTCPK:SBMRY) is a $55.9 billion large cap London based beverage company. Some of its brands include: Miller Genuine Draft, Miller Lite, Grolsch, and Pilsner Urquell. It also bottles soft drinks for Coca Cola and has a strategic alliance with the wine producing Castel Group.

SABMiller is undervalued as it is trading at only 2.7 times book value per share. It has a nice double-digit profit margin of 16.75%, earnings per share of $1.68, and an operating cash flow of $3.42 billion. It is expected to grow earnings annually at 8.8% for the next five years. This looks like another stock that will fall short of the market's performance. It would be a more attractive investment if it used its $1.73 billion in levered free cash flow to pay dividends. However, it is not currently offering dividend payments.

Conclusion:

Although it may be more fun to watch the beer commercials than to invest in them, there are a few stand-out companies that are investment worthy. The conservative picks would be Anheuser-Busch InBev and Diageo. These should prove to be the consistent dividend paying market outperformers over time.

Craft Brewers would be the more speculative stock pick as it is a small company with growth potential. It is speculative because its future earnings are not clear. However, it is working on expanding its brands to reach a wider customer base. If it can do this successfully and increase growth in existing markets, Craft has the potential to continue to be a better than average stock.

Source: Beer Stocks: 3 Out Of 7 Foaming To The Top