Monster Beverage Falls Flat Despite Record Sales

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For companies that are considered the growth darlings of the stock market, higher revenue is not enough. Growth rates also have to remain strong, and energy-drink giant Monster Beverage (NASDAQ: MNST) has had to deal with the consequences of increasing size and greater market share on its ability to sustain lightning-fast sales gains.

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Coming into Tuesday's second-quarter financial report, Monster Beverage investors wanted to see double-digit gains for revenue and profit. The company instead fell just short on the sales front, and bottom-line performance didn't live up to hopes, either. Let's take a closer look at Monster Beverage to see whether its results can shed some light on the energy-drink specialist's future.

Monster Beverage keeps facing headwinds

Monster Beverage's second-quarter results continued a run of slower growth for the company. Net sales were up 9.6%, to $907.1 million, falling short of the 10% growth that those following the stock had wanted to see. Net income gained at a more impressive 21% clip, to $222.6 million, but even though earnings rose to $0.39 per share, they fell just short of the $0.40 per-share consensus forecast among investors.

Taking a closer look at Monster's report, the beverage-company's results were more balanced than we've seen previously. The Monster Energy drinks unit, which includes the key franchises for the company, posted growth of 9.7% in its top line. The strategic-brands segment, which includes certain acquired energy-drink brands, saw slightly faster growth of 10.6% compared to the year-earlier period. Only the products from American Fruits & Flavors, which make up what Monster calls its "other" segment, suffered outright declines, falling about 6% from the second quarter of 2016.

Once again, Monster managed to produce extremely attractive results from its international outreach. Net sales to non-U.S. customers jumped by nearly a quarter, making up about 27% of Monster's overall top line. That left U.S. sales growing at less than a 5% pace during the period.

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Monster benefited from better results on the cost front. A big decline in overhead expenses helped to limit operating-expense increases to less than 2%, and that helped boost net margin by more than 2 percentage points, to 24.5%.

From a fundamental perspective, Monster Beverage kept its loyal customer base. Case volume jumped 11%, to 97.2 million cases, and even a slight $0.10 drop in average case prices, to $9.27, wasn't enough to keep the top line moving higher.

Can Monster Beverage keep succeeding?

Monster Beverage CEO Rodney Sacks celebrated the fact that gross sales topped $1 billion for the first time ever. "We continued with the strategic alignment of our distribution system with Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) system bottlers," Sacks said, noting that transitions in Macau and Hong Kong to Coca-Cola bottlers went well during the quarter and will be followed by other transitions worldwide. New-product launches also helped to bolster growth for the company and should continue to add to performance looking ahead.

Monster still hasn't found solutions to all of the problems it faces. Currency impacts are having a negative influence on results, in part because of the greater success of Monster's international business. In addition, production shortages of Java Monster and Muscle Monster products have persisted, and it's troubling to see that, even though the company has been aware of that problem for months now, it hasn't been able to solve it entirely.

Investors in Monster Beverage disliked the shortfalls in the beverage-giant's quarterly results, and the stock responded by falling nearly 6% in after-hours trading following the announcement. Monster has done a good job of turning things around for its business so far, but it can't afford to let up in its efforts if it wants to return to the full glory that made it such a commanding presence in the stock market throughout the decade of the 2000s.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Monster Beverage. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.