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Earnings Preview: Brown-Forman to post 3Q earnings

Mon, 03/08/2010 - 6:30am
The Associated Press

Liquor company Brown-Forman Corp., whose brands include Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Southern Comfort and Finlandia vodka, reports its third-quarter results before the stock market opens Wednesday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Any signs that customers are trading back up to more expensive brands and are venturing back out to drink at bars and restaurants.

Brown-Forman has faced sluggish sales for some premium brands amid the weak economy. The "on-premise" liquor sales at bars and restaurants have also taken a downturn.

U.S. case sales for the company's flagship Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey declined 1 percent in the second quarter and first six months of the fiscal year. However, global case sales for the Jack Daniel's lineup had strong growth for the six months, led by a big sales spike in Jack Daniel's ready-to-drink products.

The company's ready-to-drink products — premixed cocktails typically offered in single-serving containers — have seen strong growth.

Sales of Southern Comfort's ready-to-drink products have escalated, even as global sales for Southern Comfort have been weak. Sales of Finlandia also slipped in the first half because of soft sales in its key Eastern European market.

The Louisville-based company's earnings also have been hurt by declines in drinking at bars and restaurants — another sign of the economic slump. Brown-Forman pumped money into new packaging and labeling, and was expected to boost advertising during the crucial holiday period.

In December, the company raised its earnings outlook for the full fiscal year to $2.95 to $3.15 per share, up from prior guidance of $2.60 to $3 per share.

WHY IT MATTERS: Brown-Forman is one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies and sells its lineup of brands in more than 135 countries around the world.

An uptick in sales for its premium brands would be a sign that consumers are shedding their reluctance to spend. Another positive sign for the general economy would be if more people ventured out more to drink at bars and restaurants.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, expect Brown-Forman to earn 70 cents per share for the quarter on revenue of $818.7 million.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Brown-Forman reported profit of 81 cents per share on sales of $784.1 million in the third quarter a year ago.

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