Food & Beverage

PepsiCo expects earnings to decline in 2019 as it invests to boost its sales growth

Key Points
  • PepsiCo reported earnings in line with Wall Street's estimates.
  • The global snack and beverage giant said it expects earnings per share to decline in 2019 from the prior year as it invests more in its business.
  • The company has reported better sales growth than many of its peers in the consumer industry.
An employee pours Pepsi from a soft drink pump behind the bar of a restaurant.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

PepsiCo has found something many of its peers have lacked — growth. But it told investors Friday that growth will come at a cost.

Investments in marketing and advertising have helped the owner of brands like Mountain Dew and Frito-Lay post sales growth of 3.7 percent in 2018. That includes 2 percent growth in its North American beverage business, which until recently had been in decline. The increases come in contrast to peers like Kellogg, Mondelez and Nestle, which all posted less impressive sales growth or even a decline this year.

But the company's efforts to boost its top line are expected to hurt its profits: PepsiCo is forecasting that it will earn $5.50 per share during 2019, down from its 2018 earnings per share of $5.66. That's lower than Wall Street estimates of $5.86 in 2019, according to Refinitiv. Still, by 2020, the company expects earnings to return to growth.

"As other consumer product companies were taking a very extreme approach to cost-cutting, we had always said we were going to take a more balanced approach," CFO Hugh Johnston told CNBC. "We felt like the balanced approached of reducing cost, investing some money back to growth ... was in fact the right approach."

PepsiCo reported fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $6.85 billion, or $4.83 per share, up from a loss of $710 million, or 50 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding merger and integration charges, net tax benefits and other items, PepsiCo earned $1.49 per share, meeting Wall Street's expectations.

The company reported net sales of $19.52 billion, matching analysts' expectations and unchanged from a year earlier.

Shares of the company rose 3 percent.

Here's what the company reported compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $1.49 vs. $1.49 expected
  • Revenue: $19.52 billion vs. $19.52 billion expected

To be sure, as PepsiCo eyes further marketing and advertising spend, it also plans to balance those investments with a cost-savings program that aims to slash at least $1 billion every year through 2023. The program is an extension of a prior savings plan that was expected to end after 2019.

Johnston told CNBC that there will be layoffs in jobs that can be automated but did not provide details on how many. In addition to investments in marketing and advertising, the company also plans to add jobs in its direct store delivery business and warehouse business for Quaker Oats, he said.

Future sales growth will likely come from Pepsi's existing business segments. New CEO Ramon Laguarta told analysts on the fourth-quarter conference call that the company does not see the need to buy or sell any businesses "in any significant way." Johnston told CNBC that any deals will likely be less than $500 million.

In December, PepsiCo completed its $3.2 billion acquisition of SodaStream, the at-home sparkling drink maker. With the exception of the SodaStream deal, PepsiCo under former CEO Indra Nooyi largely stayed away from making deals larger than $200 million in her last few years as chief executive.

Like rival Coca-Cola, the global snack and beverage giant is facing foreign exchange pressure in 2019. In addition, it is also bracing for the impact of an effective tax rate it expects to rise to 21 percent from 18.8 percent.

The company also announced Friday that it is increasing its dividend by 3 percent, to $3.82 from $3.71, beginning in June.

Correction: Pepsi's planned 2019 investments include those for advertising and marketing. A previous version misstated the nature of them.