US: Brown-Forman reports record earnings
Double digit growth of the company's leading spirits brands has helped Brown-Forman Corporation report record earnings for its full year.
Earnings per share from continuing operations reached US$3.22. Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations for the full year were up 1% on a reported basis and 11% on an underlying basis.
Meanwhile, fiscal 2007 revenues and gross profit were up 16% and 13%, respectively. Gross profit grew US$173m, reflecting double-digit gains for Jack Daniel's, Southern Comfort, Finlandia, and the company's Jack Daniel's & Cola ready-to-drink product sold primarily in Australia.
"The improvement in gross profit for these brands was due to volume growth, margin expansion, and favourable foreign currency fluctuations. The fiscal 2007 acquisitions of Chambord liqueur and the Casa Herradura brands also contributed to the year-over-year increases in revenues and gross profit," the company said.
Advertising expenses increased 12% for the year due to incremental investments behind the company's premium global brands and spending on the recently acquired Chambord and Casa Herradura family of brands.
The company's leading brands, Jack Daniel's, Southern Comfort, and Finlandia, achieved record profit levels for the fiscal year. Favourable foreign exchange trends and higher volumes and pricing contributed to double-digit gross profit growth for each of the brands.
Global depletions for Jack Daniel's were up 6% over the prior year. In the US, depletions improved in the low-single-digits, while international depletions grew at a double-digit rate. Depletion growth rates were particularly strong in Germany, France, South Africa, Italy, Russia, and Japan.
Southern Comfort global depletions grew 3%, with mid-single digit gains in the US and South Africa. Finlandia volumes were up 15% globally, led by strong double-digit growth in Poland, the brand's largest market.
Meanwhile, depletions for the company's mid-priced brands were flat for the year, as 5% depletion growth for both Fetzer Valley Oaks and Korbel was offset by declines for Canadian Mist, Bolla, and Early Times. Depletions for the company's super-premium brands grew at a double-digit rate, behind continued growth for all brands in this category, most notably Sonoma-Cutrer and Woodford Reserve.
Looking forward, the company said: "Global trends for our premium beverage portfolio remain strong, and we continue to believe there are excellent opportunities to invest behind our brands. We anticipate earnings in the range of $3.53 to $3.68 per share for fiscal 2008, representing growth of 8% to 13% over comparable fiscal 2007 earnings of $3.27 per share."
This outlook excludes the projected earnings dilution of $0.13 to $0.18 per share associated with the Casa Herradura acquisition, the company said.
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