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Earnings Preview: PepsiCo to report on 4Q

NEW YORK (AP) -- PepsiCo Inc. reports its fourth-quarter results Thursday, marking the end of what CEO Indra Nooyi had said would be a "transitional year" during which the company undertook a major cost-cutting program and stepped up investment in its flagship brands.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The company, based in Purchase, N.Y., makes a broad array of products including Frito-Lay chips, Gatorade and Quaker oatmeal. It's also increasingly looking for growth from countries such as China and India where the appetite for packaged foods and drinks is rising more quickly than in the saturated U.S. market.

But over the past year, PepsiCo has also made a point of investing more heavily in its namesake soda in North America, most recently with the sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show starring Beyonce. Even though soda consumption in the U.S. is declining, the performance of its soft drink business in the U.S. is seen as a critical statement about the company's health and direction. Whether the push is having any effect is still unclear, but Coca-Cola noted Tuesday that its market share in North America improved in the fourth quarter.

PepsiCo's performance in China and Europe will also be worth noting, as Coca-Cola's sales volumes in the regions declined during the period.

As it incurred restructuring costs, PepsiCo warned that its adjusted earnings for 2012 would fall by 5 percent. But the company said its adjusted earnings should rise in the high-single digits after that.

WHY IT MATTERS: As eating and drinking habits continue to change, PepsiCo says it's focusing on introducing new products that position it for the future. For example, it introduced a mid-calorie version of its namesake soda called Pepsi Next last year to win back soda drinkers who want to cut back on calories but don't like the taste of diet colas. And this month, it's introducing a Mountain Dew breakfast drink marketed toward young men who don't like coffee or tea. The company has said it wants such new products to contribute to a greater percentage of revenue.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: The company earned 89 cents per share, or $1.15 per share when excluding one-time items. Revenue was $20.16 billion.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts on average expect earnings of $1.05 per share on revenue of $19.8 billion. PepsiCo refranchised its business in China and Mexico, meaning revenue in those countries is now recorded by PepsiCo's local partners.