April 23, 2008 / 1:03 PM / in 10 years

UPDATE 3-Pepsi Bottling profit tops view; shares rise

(Adds stock activity, analyst comment, byline)

By Martinne Geller

NEW YORK, April 23 (Reuters) - Pepsi Bottling Group Inc PBG.N said on Wednesday quarterly profit fell 3 percent because of one-time charges, but the results topped Wall Street estimates, sending shares higher.

The largest bottler of PepsiCo Inc (PEP.N) drinks said net income fell to $28 million, or 12 cents per share, in its fiscal first quarter, ended March 22, from $29 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding $2.5 million in one-time charges, the company earned 13 cents per share. On that basis, analysts on average were expecting 12 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

The bottler, which is roughly 40 percent owned by PepsiCo, said quarterly net revenue rose more than 7 percent to $2.65 billion, helped by a 5 percent increase in net revenue per case.

“PBG’s results evidence the challenging U.S. operating environment, but performance in the quarter was perhaps not as bad as some had feared,” wrote Goldman Sachs analyst Judy Hong in a research note.

Revenue per case in the United States and Canada rose 3 percent, helped by price increases and a benefit from foreign currency translation. But the margin benefits were partially offset by the impact of the early Easter holiday, which occurred in the first quarter this year, versus the second last year.

The holiday drove more sales of large take-home soft drink packages, relative to the single-serve refrigerated bottles sold in gas stations or convenience stores, which carry higher margins.

Yet the higher large-bottle purchases boosted worldwide volume by two percentage points, the company said.

Worldwide sales by volume rose 2 percent, helped by gains in every country. Volume rose 2 percent in the U.S. and Canada, 7 percent in Europe and 2 percent in Mexico.

Pepsi Bottling, based in Somers, New York, affirmed its outlook for the current fiscal year, saying it still expects earnings of $2.30 to $2.38 per share, excluding items, on revenue growth of 6 percent to 7 percent.

Pepsi Bottling shares were up 98 cents at $34.71 on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares have fallen 14.5 percent from the start of the year through Tuesday’s close, underperforming a 9.3 percent decline over the same period for rival Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc CCE.N, the largest bottler of Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) drinks. (Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Dave Zimmerman and Steve Orlofsky)

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