“Screaming Buy: The Next Coca Cola!”

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, August 12, 2010

I usually have a nearly endless stream of teaser emails to sift through as I choose which “secret stock” to sniff out for you each day, and one way that I narrow them down is by looking at editors who’ve made similar claims about other stocks and been proven right — it’s no guarantee that their next pick will rocket forward as well, of course, but it helps …

… so that’s why today I chose Yiannis Mostrous to go under the Gumshoe magnifying glass — his Silk Road Investor is one of several China-focused newsletters that also buy other emerging market stocks, mostly but not only in Asia. And I’m sure he’s made some serious stinker picks as well, but the last teaser stock of his was touted as the “Next McDonald’s,” and it has indeed done spectacularly well since he teased it a few months ago (that was Jollibee, if you’re keeping score — I wrote about it here in late April within a day or so of the start of that teaser campaign, it has since climbed about 50% and the earnings growth trajectory and China growth strategy appear to be more or less the same as they were then).

So if his idea for the “Next McDonalds” turned out indeed to be a “screaming buy” as he promised (at least in the short term, it’s only been a few months — Mostrous thinks it will go up even further in the year to come) … will the next blue chip wannabe also perform well? This time he’s saying that his stock competes with perhaps the only American brand that’s stronger than McDonald’s: Coca Cola.

Here’s how he teases this new “top-secret stock” in his latest email ad … and you know, I just can’t resist a secret:

“From a Small Family-Owned Business in Rural Asia, My Top-Secret Stock Recommendation is Building a Global Beverage Empire!

“My top-secret stock recommendation is hardly a household name. The company started out as a tiny family-owned business in rural Taiwan in 1991. After moving to China, the firm has enjoyed eye-popping growth rates (net revenues up an insane 60% quarter over quarter!) for years.

“A steady stream of competitors have entered the Chinese beverage and noodle (the company is also dominating the lucrative noodle market in Asia) market. Prices for raw materials in China have been volatile. And Coke and Pepsi have stepped up their marketing and merchandising efforts. But nothing appears to be able to slow the growth rates of this little-known star. My top-secret stock recommendation is on fire!

“Their secret is economies of scale. My top-secret stock recommendation has established production centers by region and local sales bases throughout the entire country. While Coke and Pepsi depend on retail vendors for marketing and stocking goods, this company dispatches an army of direct-salespeople to ensure proper store presentation and display to achieve its sales goals.

“The Chairman of my top-secret stock recommendation is quite a character. This eccentric wild man just happens to be a self-made billionaire with a track record of making outlandish sales and revenue projections, and then hitting those targets.

“He recently issued a very public challenge to Coke, vowing that his company is on the road to becoming the world’s largest beverage company!

“I’m absolutely convinced… This Growth Rocket is a 10-Bagger!”

I can hear you from here … “Please, Mr. Gumshoe, who is it?”

Well, looks to me like this must be: Tingyi (Traded largely in Hong Kong at 322, there are two pink sheets listings that are generally very low volume — TCYMY is the 1:20 listing, TCYMF is the 1:1 listing, meaning your pink sheet share represents either 20 HK shares or 1). At the last close in HK the shares traded at HK$18.94, which means TCYMF should be worth about $2.44, and TCYMY should go for about $48.75, though according to Yahoo neither has traded today yet. As always with Asian and Australian exchanges, if you decide you’re interested in this stock it’s a lot better to buy direct if your broker can do so (with Canada or London you can usually get a fair price on the pink sheets because the two markets are open at the same time — for at least an hour in the morning in London’s case, and all day for Toronto — and market makers can buy there and sell direct to you with little risk, that’s not so with folks on the “other side of the world”).

Tingyi is indeed a Taiwan-born company (they’re technically a Cayman Islands company now) that moved to China in the early 1990s and completely changed their strategy to focus on Chinese consumers, they are by far the dominant provider of their two core products, bottled tea and instant noodles, largely under what’s known as the “Master Kong” brand, with about half of the Chinese market for both those products.

Will they take over Coca Cola? Well, their chairman did make the claim last Fall … and they are certainly trying — they announced earlier this year that they would invest heavily to upgrade capacity to hold off foreign competition in both their drinks and packaged foods businesses. There was a good blog post about this on Forbes back in May, and another good post on the FT back in January that was a bit of a case study on Tingyi’s growth. At the very least, they get some credit for aggressively continuing to expand and invest in marketing during the financial crisis, when many competitors seemed to be treading far more cautiously.

They’re certainly beating Coke in their bottled tea business (also called ready to drink — RTD tea, largely iced green tea) by a large margin, and doing well in bottled water as well with about a quarter of the market … and they’re also ahead of Coke in fruit juice (though a distant second to local leader Huiyuan in that category), but they don’t really compete with Coke and Pepsi in the carbonated category. That might actually be a good thing, given the fact that Chinese consumers reportedly tend to prefer tea and juice drinks to sodas and are making the same health-trending decisions in that direction as folks in the rest of the world (which is why Coke bought Glaceau and Honest Tea, of course, and Minute Maid if you go back a bit further … and it’s also why Coke tried to buy Huiyuan Juice for a mega-huge premium price before being rebuffed by the Chinese government last year).

And the founder (or at least, the leader of the founding family), Wei Ing-Chou is certainly pretty high-profile, he’s near the top of the Forbes billionaires list, and his holding company (which owns a bit more than a third of Tingyi) also is the largest owner of Taipei 101, which was the world’s tallest building until earlier this year. They appear to have a solid succession plan in place to pass the family/company leadership along to his sons, as the little Taiwanese food oil company was passed along to him and his brothers a generation ago … though he’s trying to continue to grow the China food and drink business until he retires in a few years.

According to Bloomberg, the shares are fairly expensive — as befits a “blue chip” dominant food and beverage brand in the world’s fastest growing consumer market. The stock trades at a trailing PE of about 35, similar to Huiyuan Juice’s 31 (Tingyi is far, far larger — market cap of about US$13 billion, Huiyuan is about $1 billion).

On the negative side, competitive pressures are expected to continue to grow, after they helped to slow down Tingyi’s growth in the most recent quarter, and cost pressures on the noodle business might be a factor in the years ahead (wheat prices, in particular).

You can see the company’s filings on their website here if you want to start your own research, come back and let us know what you think with a comment below.

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