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News Briefs for March 7, 2012

March 7, 2012

Brown-Forman reported a net profit drop of 5% for its fiscal third quarter ended January 31, 2012, to $140.7 million. Net sales for the three-month period, meanwhile, were flat at $962.4 million, while operating profit fell 9% on the year-earlier period to $225.5 million. For the nine months through January, however, net sales were up 8%, to $2.6 billion, while the group’s net profit and operating profit both eked out 1% gains, to $406.1 million and $633.1 million, respectively. Growth remained primarily focused in markets such as Germany, Mexico, Russia, France, Brazil, Turkey and Canada, where double-digit gains helped offset losses in China, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Australia. In the U.S., solid net sales were fueled by Brown-Forman’s recent launch of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, as well as the continued single-digit growth of the core Jack Daniel’s brand.

Acker Merrall & Condit kicked off its New York auction season on March 3 with an auction 98% sold by lot. It brought in $3.77 million—26% over the pre-auction estimate. There were over 1,000 lots available, featuring Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux, as well as wines from the Rhone Valley, Italy, Germany, and California. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti brought in the highest bids—top lots included a Jeroboam of 1999 Romanée-Conti at $73,200, three magnums of 2001 Romanée-Conti at $48,800 and three bottles of 1999 Romanée-Conti at $42,700. Acker Merrall’s next auction is in Hong Kong on March 30-31 and will feature about $7 million of fine and rare wine.

•Villa Pozzi, handled in the U.S. by W.J. Deutsch & Sons, has added an Italian Moscato to its lineup. Priced at $9.99 a 750-ml., the new varietal joins the Sicilian winemaker’s Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Nero D’Avola offerings in the U.S. market. Villa Pozzi Moscato follows W.J. Deutsch’s April 2011 launch of Yellow Tail Moscato, which is expected to reach 800,000 cases—or 10% of Yellow Tail’s volume—this year.

•Molson Coors has unveiled Coors Light Iced T, a new 4%-abv iced tea-flavored beer product. Coors Light Iced T initially will roll out in Canada, ahead of a potential U.S. launch. Molson’s move is a response to the struggling mainstream beer category, which many consumers have abandoned in favor of craft and specialty brews. Coors Light Iced T follows the success of craft brewer Boston Beer Co.’s Twisted Tea, which was up 40% by volume in food, drug and convenience stores to 1.5 million cases for the year through October 2011, according to SymphonyIRI. Anheuser-Busch, meanwhile, is reportedly also entering the burgeoning segment this spring with the U.S. launch of Michelob Ultra 19th Hole Light Tea and Lemonade.

•Landry’s Inc. has acquired the 720-room Isle Casino Hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi and will rebrand it under the Landry’s-owned Golden Nugget Casino name next year. Landry’s didn’t disclose terms of the deal but expects the transaction to be finalized within four to six months. Landry’s currently operates three Golden Nugget Casino units in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada, and in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The company plans to open several of its restaurant brands in the new Biloxi Golden Nugget Casino, including The Chart House, Grotto Italian Ristorante, Lillie’s and the recently acquired Morton’s Steakhouse.

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