Finlandia’s depletions grew 7% to over 3.1 million cases, driven by strong demand in Russia and Eastern Europe. The Company’s tequila portfolio enjoyed broad-based volume growth driven by Herradura’s 13% increase to almost 300,000 cases and 10% growth for New Mix. Sonoma-Cutrer also enjoyed depletion growth of over 10% for the full year.
Reported gross profit for the year increased 4%, while underlying gross profit grew 8%. Higher input and fuel costs affected both underlying and reported gross profit trends in the year but inflationary pressures are expected to lessen in fiscal 2013. One way in which the Company continued to invest consistently behind its portfolio of brands was through higher advertising spend, up 8% on a reported basis with social media playing a more prominent role in the Company’s marketing mix. Additionally, reported SG&A increased 6% due to higher investments behind people and route-to-consumer initiatives.
Strong operating cash flow in the year allowed the Company to pay down $250 million in debt that matured in April of 2012, bringing total debt to $506 million as of April 30, 2012, compared with $759 million as of April 30, 2011. The Company had net debt of $168 million, compared to net debt of $192 million as of April 30, 2011. During fiscal 2012, the Company returned $408 million to shareholders through the repurchase of 3.1 million shares for $216 million and dividends totaling $192 million. During the fourth quarter, Brown-Forman paid a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.35 per share on Class A and Class B common stock. Brown-Forman has paid regular quarterly cash dividends for 66 consecutive years and increased them for the last 28 years, making Brown-Forman a member of the Standard and Poor’s 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index.
Fourth Quarter 2012 ResultsFor the fourth quarter, the Company reported net sales growth of 1% and underlying growth of 10%. Operating income decreased 32% on a reported basis and increased 13% on an underlying basis. Prior year’s results benefited from the gain on sale and associated profits of the Hopland-based wine business in the year ago quarter which contributed $65 million to operating income in the fourth quarter of 2011. Diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $0.73 compared to $1.13 in the prior year. As expected, reported year-over-year comparisons were negatively impacted by the absence of the gain on sale and associated profits from the Hopland-based wine business 2, as well as foreign exchange for a combined net impact of approximately $0.36 per share. Fiscal Year 2013 Outlook The Company is forecasting another strong year of underlying growth rates comparable to fiscal year 2012 levels and in-line with historic long-term rates of growth. For fiscal 2013, the Company expects high single-digit growth in underlying sales and operating income while continuing to invest in future growth. Brown-Forman projects diluted earnings per share of $3.60 to $4.00, including an anticipated negative impact from foreign exchange of $0.11 per share. This range takes into consideration the challenging macroeconomic environment, uncertainty surrounding the Company’s planned price increases, and foreign exchange fluctuations.