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Constellation Brands 3Q Profit Triples On Fewer Charges

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Constellation Brands Inc.'s (STZ) fiscal third-quarter profit more than tripled as margins increased and fewer charges hurt the bottom line. The company raised its adjusted earnings-per-share forecast for the year to $1.80 to $1.85 from an earlier estimate of $1.63 to $1.78. The world's biggest winemaker had been hurt by limp consumer spending in bars and restaurants. Costs related to the restructuring of its international businesses in Australia and the U.K. had also pressured the bottom line, though those impacts have waned of late and The Wall Street Journal reported last month the company has agreed to sell those operations to Champ Private Equity in a deal valuing the business at about $290 million. Constellation posted a profit of $139.3 million, or 65 cents a class A share, up from $44.1 million, or 20 cents a class A share, a year earlier. Excluding items such as restructuring, profit increased to 66 cents a share from 54 cents. Net sales, which exclude excise taxes, dropped 2.2% to $966 million on the divestiture of the company's U.K. cider business. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently predicted a profit of 62 cents on $993 million in revenue. Gross margin increased to 36.4% from 34.8%. North America wine sales, which account for most of the company's revenue, were flat on a constant-currency basis. Europe and Australia wine sales dropped 12%. At Constellation's Crown Imports beer joint venture with Grupo Modelo SAB de CV (GPMCY, GMODELO.MX), sales and operating profit rose 22% and 27%, respectively, on volume growth. Shares of Constellation recently fell 0.4% to $21.50 in premarket trading. The stock has gained 34% the past year. -By Matt Jarzemsky, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2240;

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