Investors have lost some of their enthusiasm for Constellation Brands' (NYSE: STZ) stock lately. The alcoholic beverage giant recently posted its weakest annual sales and profit gains in five years, after all, and its aggressive bets on the emerging consumer marijuana space aren't yet showing signs of paying off.
On Friday, June 28, the company will have an opportunity to improve on that sour investing thesis as it kicks off a new fiscal year that could bring a quick return to the impressive results shareholders had been used to seeing from 2012 through 2018.
Let's take a closer look.
Image source: Getty Images.
Living with less wine
Constellation Brands tried for over a year to get its struggling wine and spirits segment back on track, but management finally threw in the towel and announced plans to divest a group of over 30 brands valued at $1.7 billion. Executives described the move as aiming to shore up its remaining wine and spirits division by removing the lower-price point offerings so the company can focus on premium franchises like Kim Crawford and Meiomi wines and Svedka vodka. Management even went so far as to predict that sales growth will quickly return to the paired down segment, and operating margin should rise to around 30% of sales from 26%.
Investors will find out if Constellation Brands still stands behind that optimistic outlook on Friday. They'll also get a chance to see how the smaller wine and alcohol portfolio fared over the last few months, both in terms of sales growth and profitability. By comparison, the segment had been shrinking by 3% in the prior 12 months to trail the beer division by a wide margin.
The beer division has been the real engine of Constellation Brands' growth lately and investors are hoping to see those positive trends carry on into fiscal 2020. In addition to market-beating sales and pricing trends for core franchises like Corona, Modelo, and Pacifico, look for updates on Corona Premier, the most ambitious addition to this imported beer brand in decades.
Overall, Constellation Brands is targeting beer growth that's right on par with last year's 8% increase. Hitting that mark would translate into another year of market share gains for its premium beer portfolio.
Constellation Brands' efficient use of capital has been a big factor supporting huge investor returns over the past decade, and management has been busy in this area lately. Its recent brand divestments will generate excess cash that should count on seeing in the form of higher dividends and stock repurchase spending.
But for Friday's report the focus will be on Constellation Brands' massive bet on the emerging recreational marijuana industry. Its over $4 billion investment in Canopy Growth will ensure that it books noncash gains, or charges, in connection with that stock's price movement from quarter to quarter.
The more important long-term story is how management decides to use its flexible arrangement with Canopy Growth to maximize shareholder value. It's a different situation, but if this capital investment plays out similarly to management's $4 billion acquisition of its imported beer portfolio in 2012, then investors might see game-changing long-term gains from Constellation's early move into the consumer marijuana space.
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