Constellation Brands Q4 Earnings Beat, Initiates Dividend - Analyst Blog

Backed by the strength in its beer business, Constellation Brands Inc. 's STZ adjusted earnings for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015 jumped 27% year over year to $1.03 per share, cruising much ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 94 cents.

Constellation Brands Inc. - Earnings Surprise | FindTheCompany

On a reported basis, the company registered earnings of $1.06 per share, climbing 34% from the year-ago comparable quarter.

Net sales in the quarter rose nearly 5% to $1,356 million from $1,291 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014. On a currency adjusted basis, net sales rose 6% in the quarter. However, the company's top line marginally missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1,359 million.

The year-over-year increase in top line was attributed to strong volumes at the beer business, which drove 11% growth in that segment. Meanwhile, wine and spirits sales, on a constant currency basis, increased 2% year over year owing to favorable mix and distributor performance payments, offset by reduced volume.

Cost and Margin Performance

Adjusted gross profit for the quarter surged 7.7% year over year to $591.9 million. Consequently, adjusted gross profit margin expanded 120 basis points (bps) to 43.8%.

Driven by robust beer business volumes, Constellation Brands' adjusted operating income rose 3.9% to nearly $350 million while adjusted operating margin contracted 40 bps to 25.8%.

Financial Position

Constellation Brands ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $110.1 million. As of Feb 28, 2015, the company had $7,137.5 million of long-term debt (excluding current maturities) and its total shareholders' equity stood at $5,881.3 million.

During the fiscal, Constellation Brands generated $1,081 million of cash from operations and free cash flow of $361.6 million.

Moreover, the company has initiated its dividend program, under which quarterly cash dividend of 31 cents per share on Class A shares and 28 cents per share on Class B shares will be paid on May 22, 2015 to shareholders of record as of May 8, 2015.

Fiscal 2016 Outlook

Following a strong fourth quarter, management provided a favorable guidance for fiscal 2016. Constellation Brands envisions adjusted earnings to be in the range of $4.70-$4.90, compared with $4.44 per share reported in fiscal 2015. On a reported basis, earnings per share in fiscal 2016 are anticipated to be in the range of $4.55-$4.75. Currently, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for Constellation Brands is pegged at $4.81 per share, which could witness a revision following the company's guidance.

Coming to sales, the company expects its beer segment sales to increase in the high-single digit range, with mid-single digit volume growth. On the other hand, its wine and spirits business sales are expected to grow in the low-to-mid-single digit range. Operating income at the beer business is expected to increase 10%-12%, while wine and spirits operating income is projected to grow in the low-to-mid-single digit range.

Certain factors were considered before providing the earnings guidance, such as an interest expense expectation in the range of $325-$335 million, an approximate tax rate of 30.5% and weighted average diluted shares outstanding of approximately 204 million.

Moreover, the company expects capital expenditures in the band of $1.05-$1.15 billion for fiscal 2016. This is expected to include $900 million to $1.05 billion for the beer business. Pertaining to this guidance, the company hopes to generate free cash flow in the range of $100-$200 million.

Other Stocks to Consider

Constellation Brands currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Better-ranked stocks in the related Beverages-Soft Drinks industry include Monster Beverage Corp. MNST , with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Coca-Cola Amatil Limited CCLAY and Cott Corporation COT , both carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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