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By Anjali Athavaley
July 23 (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc’s higher-than-expected quarterly profit could give the company more ammunition against an activist investor who wants it to separate its snack and beverage businesses.
The maker of Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay snacks raised its full-year adjusted earnings forecast on Wednesday and said organic revenue grew 5 percent in its global snacks business, helped by strong sales of Lay‘s, Doritos and Cheetos chips. It also reported a 2 percent organic sales increase in its beverage business, which includes the Gatorade and Tropicana brands.
The sales increases were partly a result of price hikes that PepsiCo implemented as it launched new products which usually command higher prices. For instance, it has recently rolled out new flavors of Lay’s and a new “Baja Blast” Mountain Dew that was previously available only at Taco Bell restaurants. Inflation also prompted price increases in regions including Latin America.
“We feel comfortable that we can sustain our pricing,” Chief Executive Indra Nooyi told analysts on a conference call.
PepsiCo shares were up 2.7 percent at $91.59 on Wednesday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares have risen 7.5 percent so far this year as of Tuesday’s close.
The earnings come as activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management is urging the company to split its more successful snack division from its sluggish beverage business. Peltz said last week that a proxy fight at PepsiCo was a “possibility.”
The California teachers’ retirement system, one of the largest pension funds in the United States, has asked PepsiCo to give Peltz a seat on the board, a development first reported in the Financial Times on Wednesday morning. Calstrs owns a $250 million stake in PepsiCo.
Calstrs spokesman Ricardo Duran said in an email that the fund has not taken a position on Peltz’s proposed split of the company.
But he said “Calstrs firmly believes in Trian’s successful record in turning around underperforming companies, especially in the consumer staples industry.”
PepsiCo’s chief financial officer, Hugh Johnston, declined to comment on Trian’s push in an interview on Wednesday. But he reiterated the company’s view that it is performing well by keeping the businesses together.
The company’s second-quarter results “will take some of the heat off,” said Jack Russo, consumer staples analyst at Edward Jones. “It’s always good to have an activist shareholder in there stirring things up.”
Snack volumes in North America grew 2.5 percent, but soda volumes fell 2 percent, as health-conscious consumers favored juices and health drinks.
Rival Coca-Cola Co on Tuesday reported flat soda volumes in North America for the second straight quarter.
PepsiCo raised its full-year earnings per share growth forecast to 8 percent from 7 percent, before taking into account foreign exchange rates that it said could reduce earnings growth by 4 percentage points.
PepsiCo’s net income fell 2 percent to $1.98 billion, or $1.29 per share, in the 12 weeks ended June 14, from $2.01 billion, or $1.28 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, the company earned $1.32 per share.
Revenue rose 0.5 percent to $16.89 billion.
Analysts on average had expected PepsiCo to earn $1.23 per share on revenue of $16.81 billion. (Reporting by Anjali Athavaley in New York and Siddharth Cavale in Bangalore; editing by Kirti Pandey, Jilian Mincer and Matthew Lewis)