Lifted by a low-carb wine rollout, Brown-Forman (BFB) posted a strong first quarter Thursday and reaffirmed full-year earnings guidance.
For its first quarter ended July 31, the Louisville, Ky., wine and spirits giant earned $52 million, or 42 cents a share. That's up from the year-ago $31 million, or 26 cents a share, and 4 cents ahead of the Wall Street analyst consensus estimate. Revenue rose 9% from a year ago to $578 million.
The company said beverage sales rose 12% in the latest quarter, driven by volume and margin improvement in premium spirits such as Finlandia vodka and Jack Daniel's whiskey, and profits from the introduction of the low-carbohydrate wine brands One.6 Chardonnay and One.9 Merlot.
Latest-quarter gains were offset by softness within the company's consumer durables segment, which is headlined by Lenox home goods and Hartmann luggage, along with volume declines for Fetzer Premium Varietals and a decline in profits from Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails.
Adjusting for year-ago legal costs, the current-year benefit of new wine brands, favorable foreign exchange and restructuring charges, latest-quarter operating income rose 15%.
The company reaffirmed its full-year earnings forecast, projecting fiscal 2005 profit of $2.35 to $2.43 a share, in line with the $2.39-a-share Thomson First Call estimate. The company said expectations are tempered by the competitive pressures within the U.S. table wine category and the difficult environment for key pieces of the consumer durables segment.
Brown-Forman also said it is "contemplating a reduction in field inventories resulting from a continuing evolution of its worldwide distribution system."
On Thursday, Brown-Forman rose 17 cents to $46.37.