Wall Street had another relatively quiet opening on Tuesday morning, with investors generally being content to wait for guidance from the coming earnings season. Testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell tomorrow should also shed some light on the likely direction of interest rates. As of just after 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) was down 105 points to 26,702. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) dropped 3 points to 2,973, but the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC) gained 13 points to 8,111.
Even though earnings season won't begin in earnest for another week or so, some companies are getting a head start, and PepsiCo (NASDAQ: PEP) was one of the highest-profile businesses to deliver their latest results. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic said that it intends to make its shares available to investors in the near future, opening up the potential space passenger service to a wider following in the months to come.
Pepsi wins its latest challenge
Shares of PepsiCo were down a fraction of a percent despite the snack and beverage giant's release of favorable results for the second quarter. Organic revenue growth weighed in at 4.5%, helping to power net income higher by 12% compared to the year-ago period. Even though earnings per share fell 2% after adjusting for some extraordinary items, the bottom-line results were better than most of those following the stock had expected.
Among PepsiCo's segments, the Frito-Lay North America division had the best performance, with a 4% gain in operating profit supported by revenue growth of nearly 5%. PepsiCo's North American beverage division also reported higher sales, but segment profit was weaker than year-ago levels. The company saw similar performances in its Quaker Foods division, as well as in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
CEO Ramon Laguarta was pleased with the results. Laguarta noted that the company has made "progress on our priorities to make PepsiCo a faster, stronger, and better company by building new capabilities, strengthening our brands, adding capacity to grow, and transforming our culture." The CEO expects that PepsiCo will be able to hit its guidance for the full year, which includes 4% organic revenue growth and a modest 1% decline in adjusted earnings per share.
PepsiCo stock has appealed to defensive investors looking to protect themselves in a possible downturn. With a dividend yield approaching 3%, the beverage giant offers healthy income to shareholders, and even with tepid growth, the security that PepsiCo offers is attractive to many.
Virgin Galactic readies for launch
Virgin Galactic doesn't yet trade publicly, but that's set to change. The space tourism company run by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson will reportedly go public by the end of this year.
However, Virgin Galactic won't tap the markets through a traditional initial public offering. Instead, the company will reportedly merge with a special purpose acquisition company called Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings, which will spend about $800 million to get a 49% stake in the company.
Virgin Galactic has already conducted test flights for its space tourism concept, with last December's mission having demonstrated the viability of the idea. Even as of late last year, Virgin Galactic already had 700 prospective customers who prepaid the $250,000 admission price for the service. The Federal Aviation Administration has already granted Virgin Galactic a commercial space launch license, and the company appears set to move forward ambitiously.
With the move, Branson is set to beat out Elon Musk to the public markets, as Musk has said he doesn't expect his SpaceX business to go public in the near future. At the same time, Branson hopes that he'll be able to cut ticket prices by 80% or more within the next decade -- opening up space to an even larger target audience.
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