Apr 28, 2020
PepsiCo sales top estimates, boosted by breakfasts, snacking
Gordon Reid discusses PepsiCo
Breakfast at home and snacking all day during COVID-19 quarantines helped PepsiCo Inc.’s first-quarter sales beat estimates.
The company’s first-quarter organic revenue, which excludes currency changes and acquisitions, rose 7.9 per cent, topping Bloomberg’s consensus for a 3.6 per cent gain.
Executives said on an analyst call that repeated purchases of Quaker Oats and other products show consumers aren’t just stockpiling, but also eating through their pantries at a higher rate. Snack products are also doing well, with Tostitos the big winner. Frito-Lay and Quaker Foods both saw a seven per cent adjusted sales gain.
The company withdrew its full-year guidance on pandemic uncertainty, but maintained its 2020 plan for total cash returns to shareholders of about US$7.5 billion. This includes US$5.5 billion in dividends and -- increasingly rare in the coronavirus era -- US$2 billion in share buybacks.
The beverage maker reported that it had a “strong balance sheet.” On an earlier prerecorded management discussion, Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston said that the company has not had to draw on its US$7.5 billion line of credit.
Jefferies analyst Kevin Grundy wrote that second-quarter guidance for a low-single-digit decline in core sales will likely limit investor enthusiasm and “dampen otherwise strong” first-quarter results. Chief Executive Officer Ramon Laguarta said on the analyst call that the company is staying cautious since “potential second waves” of outbreaks in some markets could affect the return to regular sales patterns.
Johnston said in an interview that it’s impossible to predict how consumers will behave after the pandemic, but he sees the repeat purchases as a positive sign for Pepsi: “I think there might be something of a bigger change and shift back to bigger brands.”
He said there have been some cases of COVID-19 among PepsiCo’s roughly 270,000 employees and that changes to protect workers have caused some production slowdowns.
The pandemic-driven surge in demand may spur changes in manufacturing as well. “Many of us have run supply chains and inventory levels more leanly than five to 10 years ago,” Johnston said. Going forward may mean “carrying a bit more inventory” and “being even faster to respond.”
The shares gained as much as 2.4 per cent to US$137.68 Tuesday in New York. PepsiCo fell 1.6 per cent this year through Monday’s close, compared with an 11 per cent decline in the S&P 500 Index in the same period.