Constellation Brands Inc. continued its strong performance in the alcoholic beverage sector, reporting on Thursday that its net sales in the last fiscal year increased 12 percent.
The news sent its stock price to a record high.
The Victor, New York, company said its profit for the fiscal year was $1.54 billion, or $7.52 a share. The gain was one more largely driven by continuing growth from its Mexican import beer business, which includes such popular brands as Corona, Modelo and Pacifico. Wall Street reacted positively; the company’s stock was trading midday at $171.74 per share.
Constellation Brands is the third-largest wine company in the nation, selling 51 million cases last year. Notably, it owns such prominent local labels as Robert Mondavi in Napa Valley, Clos du Bois winery in Geyserville and Simi Winery in Healdsburg.
Net sales in its wine portfolio increased 6 percent, buoyed by growth in recent acquisitions of brands such as Meiomi and The Prisoner, both big hits with millennial consumers. The numbers were offset by the fact that the company shrank its portfolio by selling its Canadian wine business last year to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.
CEO Rob Sands said the company will focus on the premium market in both wine and spirits; last year it bought Utah-based High West Distillery, a craft whiskey producer, for $160 million.
“We aren’t interested in much else than high margin and high growth,” Sands said in a conference call with analysts.
Constellation Brands expects wine and spirits sales to increase 4 to 6 percent in the current year, with revenue growing from 5 to 7 percent for fiscal 2018 after excluding the sale of its Canadian wine business.
The company also predicts that its per-bottle wine prices should also increase, reflecting a market where the average bottle surpassed the $10 level last year. “There is a little (more) positive pricing activity than there has been in the past,” he said.
Sands noted, for example, that a 49-cent increase on a $20 bottle of wine for Meiomi “isn’t as critical” for the consumer compared to the same increase on a $5 bottle, a low-end segment the company is easing away from.
Even with the good news, the company faces other challenges. Constellation Brands would be especially vulnerable to a House Republican proposal to impose a border adjustment tax on imported goods, given its Mexican beer portfolio. Additionally, consumer activity in the Mexican-American market took a hit in the fourth quarter of last year over uncertainty about President Trump’s policies, but it has since rebounded, Sand said.
“I would say the Trump factor has diminished somewhat,” he said.