Constellation Brands is one of the world's leading premium wine companies, and now also a major force in US beer as well as spirits. Long-established as a wine producer, the company expanded dramatically during the 1990s with a string of acquisitions. Initially these were concentrated in the US, and included what was then Crown Imports, the beer distributor which turned Mexico's Corona Extra into the best-selling US import. Following its buyout of Corona in the US from AB InBev in 2013, Constellation's beer division has become America's #3 brewer behind Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors, and beer is now the group's biggest revenue stream. Lead brand Corona now has strong support from Modelo, shaping up to become the US #4 by value. Total shipments in ye 2019 were 294m cases (or 2.5m hl) Other important past purchases have included America's Robert Mondavi wines in 2004, Vincor of Canada in 2006, and Clos du Bois and other US wines from Fortune Brands in 2007. A sortie into international markets wasn't quite so successful. The group acquired UK drinks distributor Matthew Clark in 1998, followed by Australia's foremost producer BRL Hardy in 2003. The subsequent slump in UK and Australian sales prompted the group to sell off a controlling stake in those units in 2010, to form what is now Accolade Wines. Constellation sold its remaining 20% stake in 2018, and as the beer business has grown, the group has steadily reduced its exposure to wine, selling off several lower priced or lower volume wine brands. Key brands still in the portfolio are the Robert Mondavi family, which is one of the world's top ten wines at sales of over 10m cases annually, supported by Kim Crawford, The Prisoner, Charles Smith, Meiomi, Ruffino, Simi and 7 Moons, among others. The group also controls a small but significant collection of premium spirits led by Svedka vodka, High West whiskey and Casa Noble tequila. In 2017, it was among the first drinks producers in the US to bet big on cannabis-infused beverages with a minority investment in Canopy Growth, but so far that has proved an extremely expensive gamble. Another big error was the 2015 acquisition of craft brewer Ballast Point, sold at a huge loss in 2019. Revenues for the year to Feb 2019 were $8.1bn, with net income of $3.4bn. Profits that year were boosted by a re-valuation of the Canopy stake. However, that has plunged in value since then, and Constellation is expected to report a sizeable loss for ye 2020. Beer accounted for sales of $5.2bn in ye 2019, wine for $2.5bn and spirits for $381m. The company is majority controlled by two sons of founder Marvin Sands. Richard Sands is executive chairman; his brother Rob Sands - now executive vice chair - was CEO until 2019 when non-family member Bill Newlands was named to that role.
Capsule checked 12th March 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 4th Dec 2019: Constellation Brands pulled the plug on its disastrous craft beer experiment with the sale of Ballast Point, which it acquired for a lavish $1bn in 2015. The buyer is niche brewer Kings & Convicts, based just outside Chicago. No terms were disclosed, but the sale price will have been considerably less than Constellation originally paid for the business. It has already marked down the value of Ballast Point several times, most recently to just $17m. Consumer interest in craft beers was at its peak when Constellation bought Ballast Point but has plunged over the past couple of years, hastened by the explosive growth of White Claw and other hard seltzers. A similarly over-eager push into cannabis-infused beverages has been equally costly. Gross losses on its investment in Canopy Growth are already over $500m for the first nine months of the current year.
Adbrands Daily Update 4th Apr 2019: Confirming several weeks of rumour and speculation, Constellation Brands announced the sale of around half its wine portfolio by volumes to E&J Gallo for $1.7bn. In a continuing shift away from its heritage as a cheap wine producer, Constellation wants to focus on beer, spirits and a smaller wine selection concentrated on higher priced brands that lead their individual segments. Labels moving to Gallo include high volume Black Box, Wild Horse, Mark West and Ravenswood, as well as high end Clos du Bois. A full list has yet to be published. A separate deal was agreed for the transfer of New Zealand's Nobilo wine. Staying at Constellation are Robert Mondavi, Prisoner Wines, Kim Crawford, Meiomi, SIMI, Schrader and Mount Veeder. The sale accompanied strong financial results for Constellation, with revenues up 9% to $8.1bn, while net income soared by 50% to $3.4bn as a result of a huge gain on the value of the group's minority investment in Canopy cannabis. Constellation's own operating income rose by a more modest 5% as strong growth in beer was offset by declining performance by the wine portfolio. [Updated: Regulators objected to the transfer of Constellation's Cook's California and J Roget sparkling wines, as well as Paul Masson brandy. The deal price was cit to $1.1bn with those brands excluded.]
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Oct 2018: After transforming US drinks company Constellation Brands with the purchase of Corona Extra and a more recent bet on cannabis-infused beverages, CEO Rob Sands will hand over that role in March 2019 to Bill Newlands, who became president & COO at the beginning of this year. Sands will succeed his brother Richard as executive chairman. Richard was CEO from 1993 to 2007; Rob from 2007 until now. Newlands will be the first non-family member to lead the company, which was established by their father Marvin Sands in 1945.
Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Aug 2018: Constellation Brands, owner of Corona beer, Robert Mondavi wine and Svedka vodka among others, is pushing aggressively into the promising cannabis beverages category. It already owns a 10% stake in publicly quoted medical cannabis producer Canopy Growth. With cannabis already legal in several US states, and in Canada from later this year, Constellation is one of several drinks companies that see a big future in weed-infused beverages. It has now agreed to purchase a further parcel of shares in Canopy to take its holding to 38% as well as options to acquire majority control at a later date. Price for the purchase is around $4bn.
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th May 2018: Constellation Brands promoted Jim Sabia, who has been heading marketing for the beer division, to group EVP & CMO across both divisions of beer and spirits & wine.
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