And now, I'd like to turn the call over to Rob.Rob Sands Thanks Patty, and good morning and happy New Year everyone. I hope you all had a great holiday and certainly had the opportunity to enjoy some of our fine products during the festive season. Now before we get started with a review of our third quarter results, I'd like to spend a few moments discussing the strategic intent behind the recent announcement of our plans to sell our U.K. and Australian business to CHAMP Private Equity. Since the time that we acquired Hardys in Australia and Matthew Clark, we have adopted a new business strategy which has been focused on premiumizing our portfolio, generating strong free cash flow, and improving return on invested capital, all in an effort to drive profitable organic growth. And the sale of the U.K. and Australia is the next transformational step in the execution of this strategy, as the business is no longer aligned with our strategic imperatives. These international markets have been consistently challenged by foreign exchange volatility, grape oversupply, retail pricing pressures, and ongoing duty assessments which have collectively eroded profitability. And the majority of our sales volume in Australia has been dedicated to value-priced bag in the box products. However, we will continue to maintain a 20% interest in the business. As a private equity firm, CHAMP will be operating the business very differently, and our remaining interest will enable us to participate in the potential upside. All employees currently dedicated to this business will transfer to the new entity. Despite the sale of our two largest international businesses, Constellation remains the world's number one premium wine company, and we remain committed to growing an international operation that is consistent with our overall strategy. Remember we currently sell and distribute our portfolio of brands in about 150 countries worldwide through Constellation Wines International, which will continue to invest resources in new, emerging, and established markets around the world. Constellation Wines International represents growth potential for the company going forward, and will continue to drive our premium portfolio around the world.
And now I would like to focus our discussion on our financial and operational results for the third quarter. This quarter marks the continuation of the strong momentum we've experienced this year in a number of areas which include the generation of record free cash flow levels that has been driven in part by our diligent focus, particularly in the area of working capital.The great news about this new level of free cash flow is that we believe it is sustainable longer term. And, it was during last year's third quarter that we began the official transition for our new U.S. distributor network, giving select distributors the right to sell Constellation's portfolio of wine and spirits exclusively in their respective U.S. markets. There seems to be some confusion related to the intricacies of the distributor contracts and their impact on our financial results since the inception of this initiative, which commenced September 1, 2009, so I will take a minute to describe how you should be thinking about the nuances of these contracts. We initially negotiated long-term contracts with five U.S. distributors currently representing about 60% of our wine and spirits volume in the U.S. These contracts included shipment commitments that required distributors to purchase specified levels of product in fiscal 2010 and during this fiscal year, 2011. Last year, depletions or distributor sales to retail lagged our shipments to distributors due to the challenging economic environment and the disruption caused by the distributor transition activity and our sales force reorganization. In fiscal 2011, while depletion trends for our products are healthy, they have not caught up to the contractual shipment levels. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com