The US beer, wine and spirits group Constellation brands has reported a net income up 8% for 2004, on the back of a sales growth of 30%, driven primarily by the addition of wine sales from the Hardy acquisition and strong sales from imported beer, premium California wine and the UK wholesale business.

Net income reached US$220m, on sales of US$3.55 billion. However, reported diluted earnings per share declined 6% US$2.06.

Chairman and chief executive officer Richard Sands said: "Fiscal 2004 was a year in which Constellation Brands strengthened its already solid foundation to ensure long-term growth in sales and earnings. With the acquisition of Hardy transforming Constellation into the world's largest wine company, and the restructuring of our global wine business to create more nimble, customer and consumer focused sales, marketing and production companies, we are well poised to fully exploit our strengths in product breadth and organizational scale to continue to deliver profitable growth.

In imported beer we continued to lead the category with double-digit growth and Corona continuing to hold the positions of number one import and the number seven beer overall. In spirits we saw a multitude of successful new product launches all geared to meet changing consumer consumption patterns. In fiscal 2005 we are focusing investment behind our brands, particularly imported beer, Australian wine and premium California wine to drive long-term growth in sales and earnings."

For the fourth quarter, reported net income increased 21% to US$63m and reported diluted earnings per share declined 2% to US$0.55 per share.

For Constellation Wines net sales for fiscal 2004 increased US$723m, or 43%, to reach US$2.40 billion. This increase was driven primarily by the addition of sales from the Hardy acquisition. Pro forma net sales, which include US$478m of Hardy sales for the same prior year eleven month period, increased 11% driven by solid growth in branded wine and wholesale and a positive 6% impact from currency.

Looking forward, the company said it expected diluted earnings per share on a reported basis for first quarter 2005 to be within a range from $0.39 to $0.42 versus $0.41 for first quarter 2004.

Diluted earnings per share on a reported basis for fiscal 2005 are expected to be within a range from $2.39 to $2.49 versus $2.06 for fiscal 2004.