PepsiCo Earnings Preview: 3 Key Items to Watch

In its second-quarter 2014 earnings report, PepsiCo  raised guidance for its full-year "core" (adjusted) earnings per share, from 7% to 8%. You can see quite clearly what boosted management's confidence from this detail of a rather lovely infographic the company produces each quarter as part of its earnings release:

Source: PepsiCo. The complete Q2 2014 earnings infographic can be found here.

Organic revenue growth, that is, growth after adjusting for acquisitions, divestitures, and the effects of foreign currency translations, is up 4% through the first two quarters of 2014. As I discussed in a recent article, that's no mean feat, given both the tepid global economic recovery as well as an increasingly fractured geopolitical environment. My Foolish colleague and consumer goods maven Tamara Rutter provides an example, pointing out that Russia's recent boycott of western goods could have some impact on PepsiCo, as Russia alone accounts for over 7% of PepsiCo revenue.

Yet the company has skilfully navigated a tricky macro environment over the first half of 2014. Let's look at three big-picture items that have bearing on how well PepsiCo continues to solve the earnings puzzle as it reports its third-quarter earnings before the opening bell on Thursday.

Watch Frito Lay North America
Last quarter, Frito Lay North America, or FLNA, the company's snacks division, increased revenue by 2%, two percentage points less than both its recent quarterly trend and its previous full-year growth of 4%. On the company's earnings conference call, CEO Indra Nooyi stated that she wasn't too concerned about the division's performance. Nooyi remarked that while the snacks business had witnessed a slight decline during the quarter, part of the effect may be attributable to a promotion that was moved from the second quarter to the third. In addition, at the time of the earnings call (late July), the company was already seeing increased activity at FLNA. PepsiCo certainly has an interest in returning FLNA to its current trend: The division is the company's second largest, and it has accounted for more than one-fifth of PepsiCo revenue so far this year. 

Carbonated soft drinks: Expect a moderate drag
For the last couple of years, both PepsiCo and beverage arch-rival Coca-Cola have struggled with declining sales of their flagship soft drink brands as consumers opt for healthier beverages, and as other types of refreshment including bottled teas, energy drinks, and juices rise in popularity.

Through promotional activities, PepsiCo has sought to limit the damage from the flailing fortunes of megabrands like Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. Last quarter, PepsiCo Beverages America, or PAB, reported an overall organic growth rate of 1%, which was affected by a 2% decrease in North American carbonated soft drink volume.

This quarter, investors may likely see a similar decline in North American soda pop versus last year. Yet PepsiCo's task isn't really to light a fire under these sales, but to hold the deterioration to manageable levels. PAB is the company's largest division, having contributed one third of total revenue year to date. Any further weakness in soft drinks could cloud the company's back half of 2014.

Will the strong U.S. dollar catch PepsiCo by surprise?
If you're invested in a number of multinational companies, you may hear a complaint from many of them over the next two quarters: The U.S. dollar is on an almighty tear. This affects U.S.-based companies with a diversified book of business around the globe, like PepsiCo.

A strong dollar decreases the value of foreign sales denominated in local currencies, which are then translated back to U.S. currency when earnings are reported. While the dollar has shown strength this entire year, it's posted a singularly impressive performance in the foreign exchange markets this summer, rising over 8% against a mixed basket of foreign currencies.

The dollar really started to take off just after PepsiCo executives confidently raised their EPS forecast by 1% in July. Don't be surprised if the company points to the greenback as a damper on revenue and earnings growth in Q3. If management changes its bias and guides earnings downward for the rest of the year, we can take an educated guess beforehand that the U.S. dollar's strength will be one of the reasons. 

Given executives' assured tone at the second-quarter earnings in July, it's likely PepsiCo will post a solid quarter. But the proof will be in the earnings, and we'll revisit the themes above, and any other noteworthy items, after the company reports later this week.

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Asit Sharma has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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