PepsiCo profit lifted by strong sales overseas

NEW YORK/CHICAGO Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:24pm EST

Workers unload a truck of Pepsi products in New York's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in this October 8, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Chip East

Workers unload a truck of Pepsi products in New York's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in this October 8, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Chip East

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NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc posted higher-than-expected quarterly sales on Thursday, helped by strong demand in international markets such as India, while soft drink volumes fell in the Americas.

The world's second largest soft drink company after Coca-Cola Co posted a quarterly profit that met analysts' estimates and expects to complete its $7.8 billion purchase of its two largest bottlers by the end of the month.

Coca-Cola also cited strength in emerging markets, including India, when it reported higher-than-expected quarterly sales earlier this week.

But Coke reported a 29 percent volume increase in China, while Pepsi reported a decline and attributed it to a shift in the timing of the Chinese New Year and promotions by rivals.

"We made a conscious decision not to hit the volume accelerator for one period or one quarter," PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi said, echoing a stance the company has taken broadly on steep promotions.

Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo said that could also explain why Pepsi's Americas drink volume fell 5 percent while Coke's North American volume only fell 1 percent.

Looking ahead, PepsiCo said it expects to spend about $5 billion this year between buying more of its shares and contributing $600 million to its pension plan.

The maker of Pepsi-Cola drinks and Frito-Lay snacks sees additional cost savings from its bottler acquisitions, raising the target by $100 million and predicting $400 million in savings by 2012 at full integration.

Analysts said the two factors could have boosted PepsiCo's 2010 earnings view, but the company stuck to a forecast for growth of 11 percent to 13 percent.

"I think there's a little disappointment that they didn't raise the full-year EPS guidance given those two factors ... but why get everybody fired up so early in the year?" Russo said.

"If they up the guidance this year, maybe it'll happen more in the late spring or summer when the timing's more accurate," he said.

PROFIT NEARLY DOUBLES

PepsiCo's forecast calls for earnings growth at a mid-to-high single digit percentage rate in the first half of the year and a mid-teen percentage rate in the second half.

Shares of PepsiCo closed up 1.34 percent at $61.19, while Coke gained 0.8 percent at $54.22, both on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pepsi shares are up 7.4 percent from August 3, the day before it announced the bottler deal, through Wednesday, outpacing a 5.6 percent gain for the Dow Jones U.S. Food and Beverage Makers Index, of which it is a component.

PepsiCo struck a deal to take over Pepsi Bottling Group Inc and PepsiAmericas Inc, aiming to improve its North American operations and remove the tensions of being both a shareholder and supplier to the bottlers.

PepsiCo earned $1.43 billion, or 90 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, up from $719 million, or 46 cents per share, a year earlier.

On a core basis, which excludes items such as restructuring and merger costs, profit was 90 cents per share.

Revenue rose 4.5 percent to $13.3 billion, helped by a 21 percent increase in sales volume in India and high-single-digit growth in Thailand and Egypt.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 90 cents per share on revenue of $13.26 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Across the company's portfolio, the total volume of snacks sold rose 1 percent, while beverage volume fell 1 percent.

Volume was flat in the PepsiCo Americas food unit, driven by a flat quarter at Frito-Lay North America, a 2 percent decrease at Quaker Foods North America, and a flat performance in its Latin American food business.

Volume in its international division rose 4 percent in snacks and 3 percent in beverages. In Europe, volume fell 3 percent in snacks and was flat in beverages. In the unit covering Asia, Africa and the Middle East, snack volume soared 13 percent and beverage volume rose 5 percent.

The company expects a first-quarter charge of about $125 million over the devaluation of Venezuela's bolivar, but said core earnings per share would not be affected.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York and Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by Dave Zimmerman, John Wallace, Tim Dobbyn and Richard Chang)

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