Brown-Forman Reports Third Quarter Operating Income Growth of 8%, Underlying Operating Income Up 7% for the Third Quarter and Year-to-Date
Louisville, KY, February 29, 2008 – Brown-Forman Corporation reported a 4% increase in diluted earnings per share and an 8% increase in operating income for its third quarter ended January 31, 2008. The addition of profits from the Casa Herradura brands acquired in January 2007, benefits from favorable foreign exchange fluctuations, higher global consumer demand for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Finlandia Vodka, an exceptional increase in U.S. demand for Gentleman Jack, and continued excellent growth for the Jack Daniel’s & Cola ready-to-drink in Australia contributed to profit growth for the quarter. Partially offsetting these gains were softness for Southern Comfort and higher raw material costs. Adjusting for the benefits of a weaker U.S. dollar, the impact of changes in global trade inventories, and profits from Casa Herradura, underlying operating income improved 7% for the third quarter.
Third quarter net sales grew 16% to $877 million while gross profit increased 12% to $433 million. Net sales and gross profit gains benefited from the addition of Casa Herradura and a weaker U.S. dollar, partially offset by changes in global trade inventories. Excluding these factors, underlying net sales and gross profit both improved 4% in the quarter.
Advertising expenses increased 14% to $108 million in the quarter, primarily reflecting investments behind Casa Herradura, a weaker U.S. dollar, and additional activities to support both Jack Daniel’s and Finlandia. SG&A expenses increased 11% to $143 million, due largely to additional expenses associated with the acquisition of the Casa Herradura brands and a weaker U.S. dollar. Adjusting for the spending in support of Casa Herradura and foreign currency fluctuations, advertising expenses and SG&A grew 3% and 2%, respectively, for the three month period.
Jack Daniel’s global depletions grew at a low-single digit rate in the quarter, with volume growth improving in the low-single digits in the U.S. and increasing in the mid-single digits internationally. Strong double-digit volume gains were recorded in the quarter for both Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel’s & Cola. Finlandia volumes grew at a double-digit rate, driven by continued robust growth in Eastern Europe. Global depletions for Southern Comfort declined for the three month period with weakness in both the U.S. and international markets. Several other brands experienced solid growth in the quarter, including Bonterra, Woodford Reserve, Sonoma-Cutrer, Tuaca, and Fetzer Valley Oaks.
For the first nine months of the fiscal year, reported diluted earnings per share were $2.74, up 3% over the prior-year period. Operating income was $550 million, up 11% from $494 million earned in the same period last year. Adjusting reported results for the weaker U.S. dollar, recent acquisitions, global trade inventory changes, and last year’s net gain on the sale of winery assets, underlying operating income was up 7%. The organic growth in operating income was driven by solid international consumer demand for Jack Daniel’s and Finlandia, and improved volumes and profits from several other brands including Jack Daniel’s & Cola, Gentleman Jack, Woodford Reserve, Bonterra, Korbel Champagne, and Tuaca.
The company’s gross margin on a stripped net sales basis (gross profit as a percentage of net sales excluding excise tax) for the first nine months of the fiscal year was 65.5%, down from 67.0% in the prior-year period. This 150 basis point gross margin decline reflects the addition of the relatively lower-margin Mexican business, while higher cost of sales due to increased grain and energy costs were offset by benefits from favorable foreign exchange, a favorable shift in mix to higher margin international markets, and price increases.
The company is narrowing the range of its full-year earnings outlook for fiscal 2008 to $3.42 to $3.50 per diluted share, representing forecasted growth of 9% to 11% over comparable prior year earnings of $3.14 per share. Our earnings expectations for the fourth quarter include continued global growth for the company’s brands, an expected lower tax rate, and modest additional benefits from foreign exchange. This outlook is tempered by a challenging economic environment and expectations of higher energy and grain costs.
Brown-Forman will host a conference call to discuss third quarter results at 10:00 a.m. (EST) today. All interested parties in the U.S. are invited to join the conference by dialing 888-624-9285 and asking for the Brown-Forman call. International callers should dial 706-679-3410 and ask for the Brown-Forman call. No password is required. The company suggests that the participants dial in approximately ten minutes in advance of the 10:00 a.m. start of the conference call.
A live audio broadcast of the conference call will also be available via Brown-Forman’s Internet Web site, www.brown-forman.com, and then click on the link to “Investor Relations.”
For those unable to participate in the live call, a digital replay will be available by calling 800-642-1687 (U.S.) or 706-645-9291 (international). The identification code is 34932602. A digital audio recording of the conference call will also be available on the web page approximately one hour after the conclusion of the conference call. The replays will be available for at least 30 days.
Brown-Forman Corporation is a diversified producer and marketer of fine quality consumer products, including Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort, Finlandia Vodka, Tequila Herradura, el Jimador Tequila, Canadian Mist, Fetzer and Bolla Wines, and Korbel California Champagnes.
Important Note on Forward-Looking Statements:
This release contains statements, estimates, or projections that constitute “forward-looking statements” as defined under U.S. federal securities laws. Generally, the words “expect,” “believe,” “intend,” “estimate,” “will,” “anticipate,” and “project,” and similar expressions identify a forward-looking statement, which speaks only as of the date the statement is made. Except as required by law, we do not intend to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. We believe that the expectations and assumptions with respect to our forward-looking statements are reasonable. But by their nature, forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that in some cases are out of our control. These factors could cause our actual results to differ materially from Brown-Forman’s historical experience or our present expectations or projections. Here is a non-exclusive list of such risks and uncertainties:
• continuation of the deterioration in general economic conditions, particularly in the United States where we earn about half of our profits, including higher energy prices, declining home prices, deterioration of the sub-prime lending market, or other factors;
• pricing, marketing and other competitive activity focused against our major brands;
• lower consumer confidence or purchasing related to economic conditions, major natural disasters, terrorist attacks or widespread outbreak of infectious diseases;
• tax increases, whether at the federal or state level or in major international markets and/or tariff barriers or other restrictions affecting beverage alcohol;
• limitations and restrictions on distribution of products and alcohol marketing, including advertising and promotion, as a result of stricter governmental policies adopted either in the United States or in international markets;
• fluctuations in the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies, especially the British pound, euro, Australian dollar, and the South African rand;
• reduced bar, restaurant, hotel and travel business, including travel retail;
• longer-term, a change in consumer preferences, social trends or cultural trends that results in the reduced consumption of our premium spirits brands;
• changes in distribution arrangements in major markets that limit our ability to market or sell our products;
• adverse impacts relating to our acquisition strategies or our integration of acquired businesses and conforming them to the company’s trade practice standards, financial controls environment and U.S. public company requirements;
• price increases in energy or raw materials, including grapes, grain, agave, wood, glass, and plastic;
• changes in climate conditions and agricultural uncertainties that adversely affect the supply of grapes, agave, grain or wood;
• termination of our rights to distribute and market agency brands in our portfolio;
• press articles or other public media related to our company, brands, personnel, operations, business performance or prospects;
• counterfeit production of our products and any resulting negative effect on our intellectual property rights or brand equity; and
• adverse developments stemming from state or federal investigations of beverage alcohol industry marketing or trade practices of suppliers, distributors or retailers.
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