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PepsiCo tops expectations with Q4 earnings but North American struggles persist

Sales jumped in Europe, Africa and Latin America in the final few months of 2017, but PepsiCo is still struggling in its core North American market
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PepsiCo has been trying to develop less unhealthy drinks and snacks that appeal to increasingly health-focused consumers

Food and drink giant PepsiCo Inc (NASDAQ:PEP) topped Wall Street forecasts with its fourth-quarter earnings and revenues, boosted by strong international growth.

Excluding a one-off US$2.5bn charge related to the new US tax laws, the Gatorade and Lays chips owner reported adjusted earnings per share of US$1.31 in the three months through to December 31 - slightly ahead of the US$1.30 analysts had expected.

READ: PepsiCo shares rise pre-market after third quarter results

That was on revenues of US$19.53bn, which was flat year-on-year but also edged past forecasts of US$19.39bn.

Organic revenues, which strip out the impact of foreign exchange rates and other changes, grew by 2.3%.

PepsiCo saw the biggest growth in Europe Sub-Saharan Africa, where net sales jumped 11%, while sales grew 6% in Latin America.

Those divisions - which made up almost a quarter of total sales - off set the continued weakness in North America, PepsiCo’s largest market, where sales fell once again, dropping 6% in the quarter.

The New York-headquartered firm has been trying to balance the slowdown in its core business with more ‘on-trend’ innovations such as Bubly - its answer to the rising popularity of sparkling water drinks.

Exceeded most of the financial goals

PepsiCo hiked its annual dividend by 15% to US$3.71 from US$3.22 a year earlier, while it also unveiled a US$15bn stock buy-back program.

"We are pleased with our performance for the fourth quarter and full year 2017. 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," said chairman and chief executive Indra Nooyi.

As for 2018, the drinks maker has guided for full-year organic revenue growth to be at least in line with the 2017 growth rate. It anticipates core earnings per share of US$5.70, a 9% increase compared to 2017.

PepsiCo’s stock was down 0.3% to US$111.90 in pre-market trade on Tuesday.

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