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PepsiCo isn't looking at a 'substantive' breakup, CFO says

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Don’t expect PepsiCo’s new CEO to completely dismantle the food and beverage empire that outgoing chief Indra Nooyi helped build.

A major shakeup — usually focused on aggressive cost-cutting to boost profits quickly — is often a common maneuver taken by new CEOs. And with PepsiCo’s (PEP) stock down about 6% year to date, changes targeted to saving more money would likely be well-received by investors.

But Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston told Yahoo Finance that the beverage and snacks giant isn’t looking at a “substantive” business overhaul under Ramon Laguarta, the incoming CEO. Laguarta, who previously led the Pepsi’s European business and who’s a 22-year veteran of the company, takes over as CEO from Nooyi on Oct. 3.

The longtime debate on PepsiCo

Many on Wall Street have argued for a while now that PepsiCo, which owns Doritos, Frito-Lay and Mountain Dew, should slim down to improve profits. Ideas have ranged from selling off the slower-growth Quaker Foods North America business (whose fortunes are tied to sluggish breakfast cereal sales) to re-franchising U.S. beverage operations like rival Coca-Cola. 

Activist investor Nelson Peltz — who was a PepsiCo shareholder from 2012 to 2016 — pushed Nooyi unsuccessfully for three years to split the company’s snacks and beverage businesses.

The Pepsi logo is pictured in Irwindale, California, U.S., July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

A case could be made, however, to keep the status quo, at least for the near-term. PepsiCo’s third-quarter earnings of $1.59 a share beat Wall Street forecasts by 2 cents, despite rising inflation in transformation and aluminum clipping profits. Net sales came in at $16.49 billion versus analyst estimates for $16.36 billion, spurred by a budding recovery in PepsiCo’s North American beverage business.

“We were pleased that PepsiCo exceeded muted sales growth and EPS expectations,” Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog said, adding that the North America beverage segment was a standout.

While wholesale changes to PepsiCo may not be in the offing for now, the transformational Nooyi will be missed. Johnston says Nooyi’s departure is a big loss for the company.

Brian Sozzi is editor at large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him at @briansozzi.