Molson Coors Brewing Co.'S fourth-quarter profit more than doubled because of favorable tax benefits even as it sold fewer beers, the brewer said Tuesday.
Worldwide volume sold of the company's beers, including Blue Moon and Coors Light, fell 4 percent as people cut back on their purchases. Still, higher prices helped drive an 11 percent rise in net sales to $820.8 million.
Shares rose 69 cents to $42 in premarket trading.
Molson Coors has seen sales slip in its strongholds of Canada and Britain amid weak economies. People are feeling pinched so they're less likely to splurge on items like beer or go out to bars and restaurants. That's forcing companies to drop their prices to compete, but Molson Coors has held firm on some pricing, particularly in Britain, so it can make more money on the products it does sell .
The brewer earned $218.2 million, or $1.17 per share in the quarter ending Dec. 26. That's up from $87.6 million, or 48 cents per share, in last year's fourth quarter.
Without one-time items, the company earned $190.3 million, or $1.02 a share.
Analysts predicted earnings per share of $1.10 on revenue of $784.4 million, according to Thomson Reuters. They typically exclude one-time items from their estimates.
In Canada, sales to retailers fell 1.2 percent in the quarter, slightly better than the industry there. Costs fell 3 percent as prices to make and sell beer dropped. Coors Light grew, but Molson Canadian, Dry and export brands fell.
In Britain, volume there fell 9.3 percent in the quarter, far ahead of the industry's 4 percent drop. Molson Coors' decision to hold firm on pricing also contributed to the decline. The cost of making beer there increased 12 percent in local currency.
In the U.S., where the company has its MillerCoors joint venture with SABMiller's U.S. unit, sales to retailers fell 3.6 percent. Net revenue decreased 1.6 percent to $1.71 billion, although pricing was strong.
CEO Peter Swinburn said he expects the weak sales volumes to continue, especially in the first half of the year.
"But we are focused on continuing to establish a strong brand base to our business that ensures we not only manage the current market but that we take full advantage of revenue upsides when momentum improves," Swinburn said.
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