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PepsiCo beats profit estimates, sets $12 billion buyback plan

PepsiCo reported better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by higher sales at its Frito-Lay snack business, and said it would buy back shares worth up to $12 billion.

The company's stock, which has been under pressure from activist investor Nelson Peltz, was up more nearly 2 percent in early afternoon trading on Wednesday.

Pepsi also hiked its annual dividend by 7.3 percent to $2.81 per share and said it expects to return about $8.5 billion to $9 billion to shareholders through dividends and buybacks this year.

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Peltz's Trian Fund Management has been pushing Pepsi for about two years to separate its flourishing snack division from its beverage business to make two leaner and more entrepreneurial companies.

An employee pours Pepsi from soft drinks pump behind the bar of a restaurant.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee pours Pepsi from soft drinks pump behind the bar of a restaurant.

Sales in the company's North American snack business rose 3 percent. The division, which accounted for 21 percent of total sales in fiscal 2013, has been a bright spot for Pepsi, helping its stock vastly outperform that of larger rival Coca-Cola in the past year.

Pepsi's chief financial officer, Hugh Johnston, told CNBC it was a "terrific quarter."

"PepsiCo really does have a lot of momentum, both in terms of our large customers and our small customers. The business is really performing well right now," he said Wednesday in an interview with "Squawk on the Street."

He also thinks lower gas prices will begin to help, but said the process is evolutionary in nature and will build slowly.

"History tells us it will take about six to eight months to fully feel that affect and I expect that will happen again this time."

However, he told Reuters macroeconomic conditions remained tough and that the stronger dollar was a challenge for everybody.

The dollar has surged about 20 percent against a basket of major currencies, making overseas sales denominated in other currencies less valuable in dollar terms.

Pepsi's net revenue for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 27 fell about 1 percent to $19.95 billion, hurt mainly by a stronger dollar.

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Net income attributable to the Purchase, New York-based company fell to $1.31 billion, or 87 cents per share, in the quarter, from $1.74 billion, or $1.12 per share.

Excluding items the company earned $1.12 per share.

Analysts on average expected profit of $1.08 per share on revenue of $19.66 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

—CNBC contributed to this report.