Who Owns Coca-Cola: The Largest Shareholders Overview

Article Teaser: Who Owns Coca-Cola: The Largest Shareholders Overview

Coca-Cola Company (KO) is an iconic business that makes money by manufacturing and selling beverages worldwide, especially its famous soft drinks. But who owns Coca-Cola, and who controls the Company?

The largest shareholder of Coca-Cola is Berkshire Hathaway, a company led by legendary investor Warren Buffet, with a 9% ownership stake. Other major shareholders are large asset managers. Vanguard owns 8%, and BlackRock owns 6% of the company.

 Coca-Cola's Largest Shareholders (Dec 2021)
Shareholder Ownership Voting Power
Berkshire Hathaway 9.2% 9.2%
Vanguard 7.9% 7.9%
BlackRock 6.5% 6.5%
Other 76.4% 76.4%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC fillings

Coca-Cola largest shareholders by share ownership and vote control (donut chart) Coca-Cola largest shareholders by share ownership and vote control (donut chart)

As you can see above, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway is Coca-Cola’s biggest shareholder.

Buffet first bought Coca-Cola stock in 1988, built a significant stake in the company, and held on to it ever since. Even today, he says he does not think about selling.

  • Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway purchased Coca-Cola cheaply when Coca-Cola shares were decimated after the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash
  • Initially, Coca-Cola was quite a significant part of Berkshire’s portfolio. Today it is not so extreme anymore. Berkshire is currently heavily concentrated in Apple.

As the largest investor, it is no surprise that Warren Buffet likes Coke, and he became something of an unpaid company ambassador. You can often spot a can of Coca-Cola nearby whenever he is on camera. Sometimes he goes even a little bit further to promote his investment.😄

In this article, I will dive more into who Coca-Cola’s largest shareholders are, how many shares and votes they have, and how much their stake is worth. I will also explore some other topics related to its ownership structure.

If you are interested, you can also explore who owns other companies like Apple, Meta(Facebook), Microsoft, or Tesla.

🕹️ Who Owns Coca-Cola (KO) and Who Has Control?

The chart below depicts both who owns Coca-Cola and the voting power of different shareholders. Since Coca-Cola does not have any special classes of shares, and all shares have just one vote, you can see that ownership share equals voting power.

Coca-Cola largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Coca-Cola Company IPO was in 1919, so over a hundred years ago.

Coca-Cola has one class of stock, and one stock represents one vote. You won’t find any fancy super-voting shares in this company ownership structure.

No single shareholder has complete control over the company.

However, Berkshire Hataway and its CEO, Warren Buffet, have a considerable influence over the company and its management. Buffett previously served for a long time on Coke’s board of directors.

Other large shareholders are mainly asset management companies that invest other people’s money. And although they hold the voting power in their hands, they usually vote in line with the management of the companies they invest in, at least for non ESG-related items.

🗳️ Breakdown of Coca-Cola’s Outstanding Shares and Votes by Top Shareholders

The Coca-Cola Company had a total of 4,325 million outstanding shares as of December 2021. The following table shows how many shares each Coca-Cola’s large shareholder holds.

 Coca-Cola's Outstanding Shares by Shareholder
In millions of shares as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Total % Share
Berkshire Hathaway 400 400 9.2%
Vanguard 342 342 7.9%
BlackRock 280 280 6.5%
Other 3,303 3,303 76.4%
Total (# millions) 4,325 4,325 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC fillings

There were 4,325 million votes distributed among shareholders of The Coca-Cola Company. The table below shows the total number of votes for each large shareholder.

 Coca-Cola's Vote Control by Shareholder
In millions of votes as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Total % Share
Berkshire Hathaway 400 400 9.2%
Vanguard 342 342 7.9%
BlackRock 280 280 6.5%
Other 3,303 3,303 76.4%
Total (# millions) 4,325 4,325 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC fillings

You can see that there is no difference between shares and votes, since Coca-Cola had only a single class of shares at the time.

💵 Breakdown of Coca-Cola’s Market Value by Shareholder

The following table summarizes how much is each shareholder’s stake in The Coca-Cola Company worth.

However, keep in mind that a stake in Coca-Cola could be just one part of their portfolio, and their total worth could be bigger, thanks to other investments. It could also be lower if they have debts.

 Coca-Cola's Market Value by Shareholder
Market value in billions $ as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Total % Share
Berkshire Hathaway $24 $24 9.2%
Vanguard $20 $20 7.9%
BlackRock $17 $17 6.5%
Other $196 $196 76.4%
Total ($ billions) $256 $256 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC fillings

Let’s now look at each Coca-Cola shareholder individually.

📒 Who Are the Largest Shareholders of The Coca-Cola Company

Let’s now go through the list of the largest shareholders of The Coca-Cola Company one by one and look at who they are, how many shares they own, what is their voting power, and how much is their stake in Coca-Cola worth.

#1 Berkshire Hathaway

Berkshire Hathaway holds 9% of Coca-Cola’s shares making it its largest shareholder.

Coca-Cola largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Berkshire Hathaway owns 400 million Coca-Cola shares, representing 400 million shareholder votes. The market value of Berkshire Hathaway’s stake in Coca-Cola was $24 billion as of December 2021.

Berkshire Hathaway is an iconic company represented by legendary investor Warren Buffet who is also its significant shareholder and CEO.

Berkshire Hathaway is not a traditional asset manager. It is a conglomerate of insurance businesses, utilities, and other companies. As a result of its large insurance operations, it has a large investment portfolio of other people’s money (insurance float) that it can invest.

Unlike in traditional investment funds, if you buy stocks of Berkshire Hathaway, you don’t just buy a portfolio of stocks. You buy a range of fully owned businesses. Insurance companies with large reserves (float) are one group of those businesses. These reserves are then invested in various investment opportunities.

Company’s CEO Warren Buffet and his “sidekick” Charlie Munger are proponents of value-based, long-term investing. They stick to the business they understand and avoid new trendy things, whatever it means. I think that it is fair to call them “old-school.” Their old-school approach is not limited only to their investment style, as anyone who visited their company webpage can confirm.

#2 Vanguard

Vanguard holds 8% of Coca-Cola’s shares which makes it its second-largest shareholder.

Coca-Cola largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Vanguard owns 342 million Coca-Cola shares, representing 342 million shareholder votes. The market value of Vanguard’s stake in Coca-Cola was $20 billion as of December 2021.

Vanguard (The Vanguard Group) is one of the largest asset managers in the world. It manages other people’s money through its mutual funds and exchange-traded funds and also offers other related investing and financial planning services.

Vanguard differs from other large asset managers by having no actual “owner .” Officially Vanguard says that its investors own it since its funds own it, and Vanguard fund investors own those funds.

However, the actual decision power is in the hands of Vanguard’s insiders since the ownership is diluted over millions of investors worldwide.

Vanguard has significant influence over the largest public companies. Thanks to its size, Vanguard usually belongs to the largest shareholders in those companies and has considerable power at their shareholder meetings. This is especially true if ownership is diluted.

Vanguard representatives make the calls about which shareholder proposal to support or not, even though Vanguard is not the ultimate owner of those stocks and they belong to their clients.

It means that just a few people in charge of the largest asset managers have significant sway over many publicly traded companies. They are usually the median investors that can push or kill many proposals. As passive investing became more popular and the asset management market more concentrated, this became quite a concerning issue.

  • Several terms were coined to describe this issue. Some call it asset manager capitalism, and popular is also the power of twelve. Financial Times even put together who exactly those twelve people might be.

  • Vanguard and other large fund managers are trying to address those concerns by having public policies describing how they are exercising their voting power. But as you can imagine, this is still a situation full of conflicts of interest.
  • Evidence shows that big asset managers usually vote together with management.

#3 BlackRock

BlackRock holds 6% of Coca-Cola’s shares which makes it its third-largest shareholder.

Coca-Cola largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

BlackRock owns 280 million Coca-Cola shares, representing 280 million shareholder votes. The market value of BlackRock’s stake in Coca-Cola was $17 billion as of December 2021.

BlackRock, Inc. is the world’s largest asset manager, with assets under management of $10 trillion. BlackRock is not only an asset manager, but it also provides other asset managers and corporations with its Aladdin portfolio management software.

BlackRock is a publicly traded company, and its largest shareholders are its competitors, including BlackRock itself. Not directly but through their passive and active funds. The largest shareholder is Vanguard.

A similar situation is also true in the opposite direction because BlackRock is a significant shareholder in many of its publicly traded competitors and other large institutions, making the whole thing even more eyebrow-raising.

This circular ownership between Vanguard, BlackRock, and other large asset managers, amplifies the issue often raised about the power of these large asset managers over public companies since they usually belong to the most significant shareholders.

  • BlackRock and other large asset managers do not invest their own money, but they have significant voting power that, in most cases, is not passed through to the underlying investors. Therefore, BlackRock itself and its representatives have significant sway over decisions in those companies.

  • In the case of Blackrock, this influence is personified in the form of its CEO Larry Fink, who is a powerful figure with close ties in the FED and US government.

  • Adding to these concerns is evidence that BlackRock and other asset managers usually vote in favor of management proposals.

  • Recently, large asset managers started to be more sympathetic to different climate and environmental-related proposals and even supported activists that went against the management’s wishes. BlackRock was particularly aggressive in this change. Another proof of the power these companies have.

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