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The company named John Compton, current CEO of the company's American Foods division, as president of PepsiCo. The position was newly created to prep someone to eventually take over for current chief executive Indra Nooyi.
The new management shake-up also named Brian Cornell, who recently ran the Sam's Club unit of Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT), as Compton's American Foods replacement.
PepsiCo's moves are designed to line up a strong executive team that can strengthen PepsiCo as an international brand, while dealing with higher costs and lower demand in the domestic market.
"They want to extract all the benefits they can from being as big and global a company as they are," said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest.
Meet the PepsiCo New Management
PepsiCo Stock Price History
There has been increasing investor discomfort with CEO Nooyi, along with more rumors the company could split its beverage and food businesses. PepsiCo hopes adding Compton and Cornell to the new management structure could allay concerns.
"The management moves are about Nooyi and PepsiCo doing some "bench strengthening' and bring back a talented executive," said Sicher.
John Compton has worked at PepsiCo for more than 28 years. His job as the company's first-ever president will include supervising international operations businesses and reducing costs. He's tasked with integrating PepsiCo's global brand images.
Brian Cornell previously worked at PepsiCo as president of Tropicana, head of PepsiCo North America Foodservice, and head of beverage operations in Europe and Africa.
Cornell left PepsiCo in 2004 after six years there. He previously led Sam's Club for three years before leaving last month. He's also held executive positions in Michael's arts and crafts retail store and the Safeway supermarket chain.
Now he'll lead the American Foods division that last year was responsible for about one-third of PepsiCo's revenue, or $23 billion.
PepsiCo said the moves are intended to prepare for the future exit of Nooyi. There's no single frontrunner in the PepsiCo CEO race.
Now Cornell and Compton could vie for the CEO spot. Another contender is Zein Abdalla, who heads the company's European operations.
Nooyi has failed to boost the stock price much since taking over the reins in 2006, and has let PepsiCo's market share slip into the hands of rival The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO).
Despite rumors of a split, Nooyi and PepsiCo have said a division would weaken the company. The combined scale is the best way to market its brands globally.
PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) Stock Falls Flat
PepsiCo's stock has slipped about 3% this year and is trading less than 2% higher than where it was five years ago.
Part of its 2012 slump is due to cost-cutting measures announced last month. The company in February said it would cut 8,700 jobs to offset higher ingredient costs and increased advertising spending. The payroll losses should save the company $1.5 billion by 2014.
The layoff announcement came on the heels of a better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings report. For the quarter ended Dec. 31, PepsiCo net income rose 4% to $1.42 billion, or 89 cents a share. Revenue rose 11% to $20.16 billion.
PepsiCo has labeled 2012 as a transition year, where costs will weigh on profit. PepsiCo expects profit to fall about 5% this year before rising again to high single digits in 2013.
Higher prices for packaging materials like aluminum, and for food and beverage ingredients, have caused many companies to engage in cost cutting. PepsiCo will trim its workforce by about 3% and spend $500 million on new marketing initiatives for core brands like Pepsi drinks and Lays potato chips. Pepsico plans in coming weeks to roll out its first global marketing campaign for Pepsi-Cola.
The news of lower earnings this year pushed the stock price down about 6% last month, but it is slowly climbing toward the pre-earnings report level of about $66 a share.
Investment guru Mario Gabelli, CEO of Gamco Investors, told CNBC that Pepsi's new strategy will be a win-win for investors regardless if there's a spin off. He said Nooyi's plan to invest in marketing and examine expenses will help the stock.
"If that works, you have a stock that's 20 points higher anyway," he said. If it doesn't work, Gabelli said, there's a "fallback position – I've got two CEOs who can run the separate companies. Pepsi has a history of spin-offs. They've done it before."
PepsiCo also is counting on growth in emerging markets. PepsiCo last year announced a $2.5 billion investment in facilities in China, and has started a push to market healthier snack foods in India.
PepsiCo's dividend yield is 3.24%. It rose as much as 1.33% in early afternoon trading Monday to $63.99.
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- Reuters: PepsiCo deepens management bench