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Updated at 6:31 p.m. with details, stock price.

Brown-Forman Corp. on Wednesday reported that first-quarter revenues and profit fell because of the strong dollar and weakness in emerging markets.

The Louisville-based maker of Jack Daniel’s said net sales, at $661 million, were down 5 percent from the same quarter last year, while net income fell 7 percent, to $144 million.

The company said that excluding the impact of the strong dollar and the sale of the Southern Comfort and Tuaca brands, sales would have declined just 1 percent.

Earnings per diluted share, at 36 cents, were down 2 percent from the first quarter of last year.

Cost of sales were level, at $208 million. The company cut its advertising costs by $13 million, or 14 percent, and its selling, general and administrative expenses by $6 million, or 4 percent.

Shares fell 3.54 percent Wednesday, closing at $48.55, as Marketwatch reported that results fell short of investor expectations.

CEO Paul Varga said results for the quarter ended July 31 “came in largely as anticipated.”

While the distiller said it recorded solid growth in the U.S. and developed foreign markets, sales in emerging markets fell, in part because of “political instability.”

Sales in the U.S. fell 3 percent — though Brown-Forman said that excluding the impact of the strong dollar and other factors, sales would have grown 5 percent.

Paul Varga
Paul Varga

The company said it is still seeing gains for its Jack Daniel’s family of brands. While the distiller booked double-digit sales declines for the JD Tennessee Fire, it said the comparison to last year is difficult because that’s when it launched the brand.

Sales in developed markets outside of the U.S. fell 5 percent — though Brown-Forman said that adjusted for the impact of currency fluctuations, divestitures and other factors, sales grew 5 percent. The company said it saw gains in all of its top overseas markets, thanks primarily because of the Jack Daniel’s brand.

However, the company said, “emerging markets did not stabilize as expected and continued to decline in the first quarter.” Sales in those territories fell 17 percent — or 5 percent when adjusted for currency fluctuations, divestitures and other factors.

“The company believes that weaker economic conditions, devalued currencies and political instability have negatively impacted underlying demand,” Brown-Forman said.

Varga said that despite the currency challenges and weak emerging markets, the company expects another solid year, thanks primarily to the Jack Daniel’s brand and premium bourbons and tequilas.

The company said it expects to book diluted earnings per share this year of about $1.76.

Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.


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