PepsiCo beats Street; CFO backs current portfolio

(Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc <PEP.N> reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Wednesday, as price increases and productivity improvements helped margins in the face of weak soft-drink sales in North America and Europe.

In addition, the company cited a lower tax rate and a $137 million gain related to refranchising its bottling operations in Vietnam - issues that one analyst said made the results look better than they are.

"The headline is much better than the net result," said JP Morgan analyst John Faucher.

Smaller soft-drink company Dr Pepper Snapple <DPS.N> also released results on Wednesday, saying profit fell on weak sales volume.

Both companies' results came a week after Coca-Cola <KO.N> reported disappointing sales, blaming poor weather, and activist shareholder Nelson Peltz said that PepsiCo should buy Oreo cookie-maker Mondelez International <MDLZ.O> and split off its soft-drink business.

Despite the beat, the maker of Pepsi-Cola, Frito-Lay snacks and Tropicana juice stood by its outlook for 2013, which calls for earnings growth of 7 percent.

Net income was $2.01 billion, or $1.28 per share in PepsiCo's second quarter, up from $1.49 billion, or 94 cents per share a year earlier.

Excluding items such as restructuring and integration charges, earnings were $1.31 per share. On that basis, analysts on average were expecting $1.19 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net revenue rose 2 percent to $16.81 billion, topping analysts' estimate of $16.79 billion.

Sales volume rose 3 percent for the food business and 1.5 percent for the beverage business. Volume tracks the amount of product sold.

On the food side, volume in the Americas rose 2 percent. In Latin America, it gained 1 percent, while in North America, it rose 3 percent for Frito-Lay and 1 percent for Quaker Foods. Snack volume increased 3 percent in Europe and 6 percent in the Asia, Middle East and Africa segment.

On the more challenged drinks side, volume in the Americas fell 3.5 percent, was flat in Europe and rose 9 percent in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo's drinks business was hurt by an unusually cool and wet spring, Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston told CNBC-TV. But the company's broad portfolio played a role in its strong performance, he said, and dismissed Peltz's notion that the company should buy Mondelez.

"We think PepsiCo as a portfolio is working so well right now and the complexity of taking on an $80 billion acquisition and somehow trying to do all that integration, frankly, will distract the business from doing what it is that we're doing right now, which is creating a lot of value for shareholders," Johnston said.

He added that when someone advocates for the deal, "more often than not it's someone who's got a bigger stake in Mondelez."

PepsiCo shares were little changed at about $86.22 in early New York Stock Exchange trading. They are up 26 percent so far this year.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)