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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Second Harvest gets $10,000

Spokane’s Alliant Insurance Services has given Second Harvest a $10,000 donation that will help that organization pay for weekend meals and snacks for dozens of students enrolled in their Bite2Go program.

Alliant volunteers directly with Bite2Go and helps prepare and deliver kits to local elementary schools to make sure students don’t go hungry on weekends during the school year, according to a news release.

Jeff O’Neill, managing director at Alliant Insurance Services, initially secured a $5,000 donation for Second Harvest after submitting a request through the 2023 Make More Happen Awards through Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance, according to the release. By highlighting the local partnership, Alliant was able to secure another $5,000 donation.

All told, the Make More Happen Award program will select up to 37 independent agents nationwide to donate up to $370,000 in grants to nonprofits, according to the release.

PepsiCo set to overtake Coca-Cola

PepsiCo Inc. is on course to take over as the biggest U.S. beverage company by market value, supplanting rival Coca-Cola Co., which has held the spot largely uninterrupted for the better part of two decades.

That’s according to Wall Street analysts including Kaumil Gajrawala at Jefferies, who has initiated coverage of PepsiCo with a buy rating, calling it the sector’s “most durable business.”

He projects the shares will rise more than 20% over the next year to $203, for a market value of about $279 billion.

That would top the roughly $277 billion market capitalization implied by his $64 target for Coca-Cola, which he rates a hold.

The call, echoed by analysts from Cowen and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., would mark a telling reversal for the soda giants: Aside from a single day in 2020, PepsiCo’s value hasn’t eclipsed Coca-Cola’s since 2006.

At roughly $246 billion on Monday, Coca-Cola’s market cap is nearly $15 billion above PepsiCo’s.

Coca-Cola has long held down the top spot in part due to its strong brand portfolio and record of sales growth.

But PepsiCo’s food business, including Lay’s potato chips, Doritos and Quaker oatmeal, has become a key differentiator.

Gajrawala expects PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America business will continue to outperform its other products. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is exclusively a beverage company.

For PepsiCo, “hefty investments over the last half decade are yielding results, and we expect returns to accelerate,” Gajrawala wrote in a note to clients, highlighting that the company has invested about $60 billion over the past five years to make operations more efficient, increase capacity and build its brand.

The analyst touted PepsiCo’s ability to grow during challenging economic periods, like in the aftermath of the pandemic.

He sees it as the most likely company in his beverage and household products coverage to grow earnings in a range of high-single digits or better over the next three years.

Meanwhile, he see limited room for Coca-Cola to advance at its current valuation. A tax dispute with the Internal Revenue Service also clouds its outlook.

Coca-Cola is hardly falling out of favor on Wall Street, and by one measure is the preferred stock.

Its consensus rating – a proxy for the ratio of buy, hold and sell recommendations – is 4.6 out of five, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

PepsiCo’s is 4.1 out of five.

Both stocks have trailed the S&P 500 Consumer Staples Index this year.

PepsiCo has slumped around 7%, while Coca-Cola has dropped about 10%.

Exxon plans include going big on lithium

Exxon Mobil Corp. plans to become one of the biggest suppliers of lithium for electric vehicles, marking the oil giant’s first major foray outside of fossil fuels in decades.

Exxon will extract the metal from underground saltwater reservoirs in the Smackover Formation in southern Arkansas, employing a novel method called Direct Lithium Extraction not currently deployed at scale.

Exxon aims to produce its first lithium by 2027 and ramp up output to the equivalent of 1 million electric vehicles annually by 2030.

That level of production would amount to about 100,000 tons a year, said Dan Ammann, president of Exxon’s Low Carbon Solutions business, said during an interview Monday.

It would also make Exxon one of the top ten producers globally.

“We’re producing lithium here domestically instead of importing it from China and elsewhere,” Ammann said. “We’re going to do that with a much smaller environmental footprint and we’re going to build a profitable and high-growth business.”

Although lithium is not geologically scarce like other battery metals such as cobalt and nickel, mining high-grade quantities at scale is a major challenge.

From staff and wire reports

Exxon believes DLE has several advantages over the hard-rock mining techniques and brine ponds currently in use, including smaller surface-land use.

Ammann also sees similarities between DLE and pumping oil, making the company “quite confident in the production approach.”

DLE’s success could be a game-changer for worldwide lithium production.

It would unlock vast resources of the silvery-white metal in North America, reducing the need for imports.