PepsiCo has got off to "a terrific start" to 2004, according to its chairman. In a conference call yesterday, Steve Reinemund said that the first five weeks of the year have seen the company continue impressively "in all of our businesses."

PepsiCo president and CFO Indra Nooyi said that the company expects Q1 earnings to be in the range of US$0.43 to $0.44 a share. Nooyi reiterated PepsiCo's expectations that 2004 earnings will be consistent with the company's forecast, which calls for 2004 earnings to be in the range of $2.24 a share to $2.28 a share.

Reinemund said that, considering the start the company has had so far in 2004, he would be "disappointed" if the company didn't hit the top-end of the range.

Later in the conference call, Reinemund was asked by a caller if he felt the Securities and Exchange Commission has increased its focus on food and beverage manufacturers.

"There is no question the focus on all consumer products companies, both manufacturers and retailers, has increased, and we've obviously gone back and looked at our practices and feel that we're operating within the spirit of the law," Reinemund replied. Reinemund added that he thinks the extra scrutiny is "probably a beneficial thing" both long- and short- term.

As reported earlier today, Pepsico saw its fourth quarter earnings per share rise by over 30% to $0.51, with full year 2003 EPS up by 21% to US$2.01. Total net income, which also included the favourable tax settlement in the fourth quarter, increased by 30% for the quarter, and by over 18% for the full year.