US: Brown-Forman boosted by FOREX & Scotch sale

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Brown-Forman has reported a 19% increase in its earnings per share for the third quarter, over the same period last year, to US$0.78, including a boost from the sale of its stake in Scotch whisky group Glenmorangie.

Excluding the sale, earnings per share were still up 8% as the US wine and spirits group benefited from solid growth from Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Southern Comfort, and Finlandia Vodka, and stronger foreign currencies. These gains were partially offset by higher advertising and SG&A expenses in the company's beverages segment.

For the first nine months of the fiscal year, diluted earnings per share were US$2.05, up 25% over the same period last year.

"Year-to-date growth was driven in part by the Glenmorangie gain, favourable foreign exchange trends, strong earnings growth for our global spirits brands, and the absence of litigation expenses incurred in the prior year," a statement said.

In the third quarter, revenues and gross profit for the beverages segment were up 13% and 14%, respectively. This growth was driven by stronger foreign currencies and continued volume growth and price increases for the company's global spirits brands. Advertising expenses were up 20%, reflecting what the company called its "desire to invest aggressively in the current robust global spirits environment and the impact of a weaker US dollar on the company's costs."

Global depletions for Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey continued to grow in the high single-digits in the US and in the double-digits in international markets. Southern Comfort global depletions were up in the high single-digits. Global depletions and shipments also grew at double-digit rates for Finlandia Vodka, driven by continued strength in Eastern Europe and the return to growth in the US, which is partially attributable to the introduction of a new flavour.

However, following the strong growth in earnings through January, only moderate growth is expected for the remainder of the fiscal year.

"Continued solid consumer demand for several of the company's beverage brands is projected to be partially offset by increases in advertising investments and reductions in global trade inventory levels related to both supply chain efficiency initiatives and potential distribution changes in continental Europe," the statement said.

However, the company still increased its full year outlook to a range of US$2.47 to US$2.51 per share. Excluding the Glenmorangie gain and the asset impairment charges, diluted earnings per share are expected to be in a range of US$2.41 to US$2.45, reflecting growth of 16-18% for the full fiscal year.

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