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4Q PepsiCo profit rises on snacks

PURCHASE — PepsiCo Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit almost doubled on strength in its snacks business and overseas beverage operations.

The drink maker said Thursday it will continue to launch new snack products as well as speed up growth in developing markets, which it expects to boost revenue and profit.

The company, whose brands include Gatorade, Quaker and Pepsi-Cola, earned $1.43 billion, or 90 cents per share, even with the estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. These estimates normally remove one-time items.

Sales for the period ended Dec. 26 climbed 4.5 percent to $13.3 billion from $12.74 billion, edging out Wall Street’s $13.26 billion forecast.

North American beverage revenue dipped slightly to $2.75 billion, while Frito-Lay North America snacks sales rose to $3.89 billion. Not all was bleak for the beverage division though, as PepsiCo was encouraged by the performance of its SoBe Lifewater and Gatorade beverages, which gained market share during the quarter.

Snack sales have held up better for the company as people buy more food at grocery stores and eat out less often.

PepsiCo said it expects to close on its acquisitions of bottlers PepsiAmericas and the Pepsi Bottling Group by the end of the month.

The company said this year it will concentrate on creating healthier foods and beverages for consumers, who have started to shift more toward teas and juices and away from soda.

PepsiCo anticipates 2010 earnings will rise 11 percent to 13 percent on a constant currency basis.