Pepsi beats low expectations, but shares still fall

Gains overseas can't hide weakness in the U.S.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 26, 2012 5:07PM
PepsiCo (PEP) failed to wow Wall Street Thursday.

The beverage and snacks company reported that quarterly profit fell 1.4% to $1.13 billion, or 71 cents a share, from $1.14 billion, or 71 cents, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, profit was 69 cents, beating analyst estimates of 67 cents.

Revenue rose 4% to $12.43 billion, ahead if the $12.36 billion Wall Street consensus. The company reiterated that it expects a decline of "core constant currency EPS" in 2012 of about 5% from 2011's level of $4.40, and that net revenue will grow in the low-single digits.

Shares of the Purchase, N.Y., company, which have barely budged this year while rival Coca-Cola (KO) gained almost 9%, fell less than 1% Thursday to close at $66.37.

Hear what one analyst has to say on Coke's stock vs. Pepsi in the following video.

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Beating expectations doesn't mean much if expectations were pretty low to start with. Such is the case with PepsiCo. Moreover, the company benefited from price increases in the quarter, gains that chief financial officer Hugh Johnston told Bloomberg Television that he doesn’t expect to see again this year.

Though the company got kudos for the 11% revenue gain at its Latin American foods business and a 12% jump in the company's Asia, Middle East and Africa unit, PepsiCo's business in the U.S. continues to post lackluster results. For instance, revenue at PepsiCo Americas Beverages fell 2% while volumes were off by 1%. That is a bit surprising, since the company has won new business from Family Dollar (FDO) and Papa John's (PZZA). Given that PepsiCo hiked its media spending by 25% in the quarter, Wall Street will demand better results.

PepsiCo's results underscore the challenge for CEO Indra Nooyi. who has announced plans to cut 8,700 jobs, hike marketing spending by $600 million this year and introduce new products to gain share in emerging markets. Earlier this year, PepsiCo revamped its management team, prompting speculation that Nooyi was going to be pushed out. She was even rumored to be under consideration to be the next head of the World Bank.  

To be fair, Nooyi has done quite a lot for PepsiCo, including overseeing the sale of its restaurant business, now called Yum Brands (YUM), the $3.3 acquisition of Tropicana in 1998 and the $13.4 billion purchase of Quaker Oats in 2001. None of these accomplishments, however, are reflected in PepsiCo's share price she became CEO in 2006 and chairman in 2007. Over the past five years, shares of PepsiCo. have fallen less than 1% while Coca-Cola's shares have soared more than 45%.

Something has got to give, and shareholders seem to increasingly believe that PepsiCo needs a change at the top. Nooyi has had more than enough time to turn around the venerable company.

-Jonathan Berr is long Coke

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