Food & Beverage

PepsiCo earnings beat, but beverage business still struggles to find US growth

Key Points
  • The beverage and snack giant reports fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that beat analysts' expectations.
  • Pepsi boosted its annual dividend by 15 percent to $3.71 from $3.22 a share.
  • Pepsi also announces a $15 billion stock buyback program.
PepsiCo reports better-than-expected quarter
PepsiCo reports better-than-expected quarter
PepsiCo on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that topped analysts' expectations, despite the pressure that retailers and changing consumer tastes have put on its core beverage business.

Pepsi's shares were down fractionally in premarket trading.

Here is what PepsiCo reported versus expectations by analysts in a Thomson Reuters survey:
  • EPS: $1.31 per share, adjusted, vs. $1.30.
  • Revenue: $19.53 billion, vs. $19.39 billion.

"We are pleased with our performance for the fourth quarter and full year 2017," Chairwoman and CEO Indra Nooyi said in a statement. "We met or exceeded most of the financial goals we set out at the beginning of the year. We delivered these results in the midst of a dynamic retail environment and rapidly shifting consumer landscape."

Pepsi also on Tuesday said it is laying off off less than one percent of its U.S. work force, primarily in its corporate office. Those moves come as part of its previously announced five-year productivity program. It plans to hire tens of thousands of associates next year, spanning front-line workers to senior management. It is also paying out $100 million in bonuses to front-line and full-time U.S.-based associates.

PepsiCo recorded a net loss of $710 million, or 50 cents per share, compared with earnings of $1.40 billion, or 97 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.

Earnings in the latest period were hurt by a $2.5 billion one-time charge related to new U.S. tax laws. Excluding this and other one-time items, the company earned $1.31 per share, edging past analysts' estimates of $1.30.

For the quarter, Pepsi's net revenue of $19.53 billion was flat when compared with the year-ago period. Organic revenue, which excludes the impacts of foreign exchange and other changes, grew by 2.3 percent.

The company saw the greatest sales growth in Europe/Sub-Saharan Africa, where net sales jumped 11 percent and Latin America, where sales grew 6 percent. Those regions combined comprised 21 percent of Pepsi's revenue for the quarter.

Their growth made up for continued weakness in its largest business, North American beverages. Sales of drinks that include Tropicana and Gatorade continued to slide by 6 percent net.

"We've got our challenges [in the business], and we are addressing them," PepsiCo's CFO Hugh Johnston told CNBC in an interview Tuesday.

Last quarter, called Johnston weakness in in North American drinks a "toe stub" as the company looks to balance its slow-growing core business with more on-trend innovations. Carbonated and sugary drinks have come under pressure as consumer tastes have shifted to healthier drinks. Those drinks, though, still comprise most of Pepsi's beverage sales.

Pepsi's more recent innovations (and the stars of its Superbowl efforts) were extensions of two of its core lines, Doritos Blaze and Mtn Dew Ice. It also recently introduced "Bubly," the company's answer to the growth in sparkling water drinks.

"I expect as we go into 2018 we are going to have have a terrific year on innovation because of Mtn Dew Ice, because of Doritos blaze, because of Bubly," Johnston said.

"We are broadly impressed with Pepsi's ability to deliver bottom line results, despite the dynamic retail environment and their continued under performance in the beverage performance," said Bonnie Herzog, an analyst at Wells Fargo.

Net revenue at the Frito-Lay snack business fell 1 percent for the quarter, hurt by fewer weeks in the last period. After adjusting for this, organic revenue rose 5 percent.

Pepsi also said it expects full-year organic revenue growth to be at least in line with the 2017 growth rate. It anticipates core earnings per share of $5.70, a 9 percent increase over 2017.

The company boosted its annual dividend by 15 percent to $3.71 from $3.22 a share. It also announced a $15 billion stock buy-back program.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of bonuses PepsiCo is paying.)