For the year to date, shares of Constellation Brands (STZ) - Get Report , at close to $164, are up about 17% and have outperformed the S&P 500 by 1000 basis points. Can investors continue to party on?
Selling beer, wine and spirits is a really, really good business. The stock is up 800% in just the last five years. Constellation reports second-quarter fiscal 2017 earnings on Wednesday and should be another solid quarter.
Constellation reported first-quarter results at the end of June, reporting adjusted earnings of $1.54 per share, 2 cents ahead of the consensus estimate. Revenue rose 14.8% to $1.87 billion, which reflected strong organic net sales growth on a constant currency basis of 10%. On a reported basis, including the acquisition of Ballast Point Brewery, sales were up 15%.
Net sales for beer increased 19%. Organic beer sales increased 15% driven by volume growth and depletion growth of almost 10%. Beer sales were driven by Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day celebrations. Craft beer maker Ballast Point, posted a depletion rate of 60% in the first quarter, which means party-goers came dangerously close to running out. Ballast Beer is now available in 40 states and the company believes its will be available in all 50 states by the end of 2016.
Constellation's beers are so popular that it was the number one market share gainer during the first quarter at retail.Reported beer shipments rose 14.3%, including 11.9% for the company's Mexican beers. Total beer depletion was up 9.7%.
Net sales in the Wine and Spirits segment jumped 8%, which primarily reflected the acquisition of wine maker Meiomi. On a constant currency basis, without the acquisition, wine and spirits sales were up 3%.
First-quarter operating margins increased 200 basis points to 29.3%. Beer operating income jumped 22% because of higher prices. Beer margins rose 80 basis points. Beer operating margins were 35.6%. Wine and Spirits operating margin ended the quarter at 23.3%.
For the second quarter, analysts are expecting sales of $1.9 billion, up 13% and earnings per share of $1.61.
For the full fiscal year, 2017 management sees earnings between $6.05 and $6.27 per share and operating income growth of 14% to 17%. Sales are expected to rise about 12%, following 8.6% growth last year. Gross margins are poised to jump 130 basis points to 44.9% as improved sales leverage, a more favorable product mix and better pricing filter through the financial statements.
Some investors were surprised that management didn't revise fiscal 2017 guidance higher because of the strong first quarter, but margins should to expand as the company brings its new brewing facilities on line next year. Demand shows no signs of slowing.
I think shares of Constellation Brands can continue to move higher over the next year. Demand remains incredibly strong. The acquisitions the company has done over the last few years have been immediately accretive to revenue and earnings. The company is constructing of some of the largest brewing facilities in the world, which will drive operating margins much higher.
For fiscal 2017, analysts think the company will earn $6.31 and $7.12 next year. The three-year average multiple for the stock is between 30 and 33 times forward estimates. In my opinion, the stock should be able to trade to 32 times estimates or over $200 per share within the next year.
Is that stock expensive? Has it been discovered by hedge funds? Is it a crowded name? Is it up 1,000 basis points over the S&P 500? Yes.
So I am cautiously optimistic and I would use dips to buy. In my opinion, investors will be able to party on into 2017.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.