PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) is set to report first-quarter earnings on April 15. The snack and beverage maker is coming off a strong year in 2020, where it benefited as people consumed more of its products at home. Investors will get an initial glimpse of how the business is doing as economies go through a mixed reopening worldwide.

In places like the U.S., where the campaign to vaccinate citizens appears to be going well, businesses are reopening and increasing capacity. In other geographies like Europe, inoculations are not happening as quickly, and coupled with another surge in coronavirus infections, the path to reopening is slowing.

Still, the company expects some trends that helped sales during the pandemic, such as remote working and a shift to online shopping, to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels for the long term. Given that backdrop, here are three things you'll want to know when PepsiCo reports Q1 2021 earnings. 

Two cups of soda with lime on the rims.

Image source: Getty Images.

Lingering COVID-19-related costs affecting operating profits

The first thing you will want to look at in the report is overall revenue growth, which increased by 8.8% year over year in the fourth quarter. The company guided investors for organic revenue growth, which excludes the effects of currency fluctuations on revenue, in the low single-digit percentages for Q1 2021. Vaccinations against the coronavirus have accelerated in the U.S., allowing people to feel more comfortable interacting with others. That will certainly change the mix of where folks buy the company's products, but it's not certain whether it will increase or decrease overall sales.

Second, look at what management says about its business as economies are reopening worldwide. PepsiCo benefited as people staying home more consumed an increasing amount of its snacks and beverages. Now, as businesses are reopening worldwide, it will be interesting to hear what management has to say about how PepsiCo transitions through the change. Remember too that although people consumed more of its products while at home, those sales come with lower profit margins for PepsiCo than purchases made away from home in places like convenience stores and gas stations. 

Third, look at the operating profit margin. Despite the robust revenue growth in the fourth quarter, PepsiCo's operating profit margin decreased from 13% to 12.6% year over year. Rising costs related to keeping the working environment safe during a pandemic were the leading cause of the drop. The company is not expecting these costs to go away anytime soon, which can partly explain why it is guiding investors to expect a further decline in its operating profit margin when it reports Q1 2021 results.

What this could mean for investors 

Analysts on Wall Street are expecting PepsiCo to report revenue of $14.54 billion and earnings per share of $1.12 when it reports first-quarter results. If it hits those expectations, it would be an increase of 4.8% and 4.67%, respectively.

Warnings from management that COVID-19-related costs are going to stick around for at least another quarter or two, combined with revenue guidance in the low single digits, have given investors pause. Share prices of the snack and beverage giant are down 3.6% year to date.

Still, if the company reports EPS ahead of expectations and sounds optimistic about controlling costs for the rest of 2021, shares could pop after earnings are released.

 
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