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News Briefs for January 27, 2012

January 27, 2012

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates saw shipments jump 11% to 2.36 million cases in the three months through December, its fiscal fourth quarter. For the full year 2011, company shipments rose 10% to 7.32 million cases. Net revenues were up 11% to $167 million for the quarter and 12% to $516 million for the year. Parent company Altria said Ste. Michelle was seeing continued momentum from the “national expansion of select wines into off-premise channels and growth in the Chateau Ste. Michelle brand (+8% to 2.5m cases for the year).” The company’s fast-rising 14 Hands brand has also provided a boost, rising 92% to 785,000 cases in calendar 2011, according to Impact Databank. Another key brand, Columbia Crest, saw improved fortunes in the second half of 2011, which allowed it to eke out a 0.1% gain to 2.1 million cases for the full year. In announcing the results, Altria chairman and CEO Mike Szymanczyk said he will retire effective May 17, to be replaced by current vice chairman Martin Barrington.

Pernod Ricard USA is adding a new single malt Scotch whisky to its lineup next month, introducing Aberlour 12-year-old Non-Chill Filtered. The non-chill filtering process gives the tipple’s mouthfeel increased body and a rich texture while preserving the full flavor of the malt, Pernod says. The new entry is 48%-ABV and $59.99 a bottle. Aberlour, a Speyside malt known for its double cask maturation in Sherry and Bourbon barrels, ranks among the top 10 single malts worldwide at around 170,000 cases per year.

Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) has released new smaller-size packaging for its Select 55 low-calorie beer brand to retailers nationwide. The Select 55 “Little Lights” include eight-ounce cans with only 35 calories each (available in 12-packs) and seven-ounce glass bottles with 32 calories each (available in 6-packs). The beer brand also comes in the original packaging of 12-ounce cans and bottles with 55 calories each. For the 52-week period ending January 8, Select 55 saw volume decline 2.4% to 4.7 million (2.25-gallon) cases sold in food/drug/convenience stores, according to SymphonyIRI.

Van Gogh Imports is set to roll out a new entry, Tap 357 Maple Rye Canadian whisky, next month. Selling for around $30 a bottle, Tap 357 is a blend of 3-, 5- and 7-year-old whiskies complemented with Quebec-sourced maple syrup. Norman Bonchick, chairman and CEO of Van Gogh Imports, expects the new offering to draw interest from “across multiple brown spirit segments, especially appealing to whisky, rye and Bourbon enthusiasts.” Tap 357 initially will be available in Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, with more markets to follow later in the year.

Beam Inc.’s board of directors has approved an 8% increase in the dividend on the company’s common stock. The dividend will increase 6 cents per share to an annual rate of $0.82 (payable 20.5 cents per quarter) from $0.76 per share (19 cents per quarter). Beam also declared the next quarterly dividend of 20.5 cents per share, which will be payable on March 1, 2012 to shareholders of record at the close of business February 8, 2012. Beam CEO Matt Shattock said the increase “reflects several inherent strengths in Beam, including our cash flow generation and balance sheet, our excellent prospects for profitable long-term growth, and our strong stewardship of capital focused on maximizing long-term shareholder value.”


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