Soft-drink, cereal and snack-food giant PepsiCo Inc. on Wednesday reported a 14 percent rise in third-quarter profits before one-time charges and forecast strong earnings growth in coming years as it remains resilient despite the economic downturn. 

The world's fifth-largest food-and-beverage company, whose products include Pepsi sodas, Frito-Lay snacks and Quaker cereals, said it is still ``committed'' to earnings-per-share increases of 13 percent to 14 percent in 2002 and beyond. 

For the third quarter, PepsiCo earned $866 million, or 48 cents per share, before $248 million in charges related to its Aug. 2 acquisition and integration of Quaker Oats Co. 

The results, which met the high end of analysts' expectations of 44 cents to 48 cents a share, are up from year-ago earnings of $759 million, or 43 cents a share, which were calculated as if PepsiCo and Quaker had already merged at that time. 

``It's another great quarter from these guys,'' said J.P. Morgan analyst John Faucher, citing PepsiCo's solid operating profit, which grew at least 10 percent at every unit except Quaker Foods North America. 

PepsiCo shares were up 54 cents at $49.47 in morning New York Stock Exchange trade. 

Third-quarter net income, including the one-time items, fell 17 percent to $627 million, or 34 cents a share, from $755 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier. 

PepsiCo, No. 2 in soft drinks behind perennial leader Coca-Cola Co., said net sales climbed 8 percent to $6.91 billion from $6.42 billion a year earlier. 

``The integration of the Gatorade and Quaker businesses has brought no surprises,'' Chairman and Chief Executive Steve Reinemund said in a statement. Gatorade, the No. 1 sports drink, was among the brands PepsiCo acquired as part of the Quaker deal. 

PEPSICO BACKS EARNINGS TARGETS 

The company did not specifically address the Sept. 11 attacks' impact on the economy or its outlook, but Reinemund did say it does not expect ``current events'' to materially affect the current fourth quarter. He said PepsiCo is confident in its full-year earnings target of $1.66 a share, which is also the First Call consensus estimate. 

Analysts on average see 2002 profits of $1.89 a share, up 14 percent from this year's projection, according to First Call. The firm said forecasts range from $1.84 to $1.97. 

During the third quarter, worldwide beverage sales rose 8.7 percent to $2.89 billion, and operating profit climbed more than 12 percent to $520 million, with Pepsi-Cola North America's growth driven in part by Mountain Dew Code Red, a cherry-flavored version of the caffeine-laden soft drink; SoBe fruit drinks and teas; and Aquafina bottled water. 

Worldwide snack sales rose 7 percent to $3.51 billion, and operating profit increased more than 10 percent to $670 million, with results at Frito-Lay North America boosted by Lay's chips, including the recently launched Lay's Bistro gourmet line. 

Despite the Quaker acquisition, Faucher still sees salty snacks -- PepsiCo's largest business -- driving future growth. 

``That's where they have the most leverage,'' he said. ``It's still going to have to come from snacks.'' 

Sales at Quaker Foods North America division rose 4.3 percent, with operating profit up 5.8 percent, as growth in hot and ready-to-eat cereals offset declines in flavored rices and pasta. 

As of Tuesday, PepsiCo shares had slipped less than 1 percent since the beginning of the year, outperforming Coca-Cola shares, which had fallen about 24 percent.