Brown-Forman's Steady and Sober Quarter

Brown-Forman's (NYSE: BF-A  ) (NYSE: BF-B  ) latest quarter was exactly how shareholders like it: fairly positive and stone-cold sober. In a world where leading companies such as Apple and Google are in a constant state of flux, the steadiness of Brown-Forman's family-controlled performance is almost as calming as a shot of Jack Daniel's. Which is why it's one of my longest continuing CAPScalls.

The company's new Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey continues to be a hit. CEO Paul Varga explained on the conference call that the company was anxious Honey might cannibalize sales from its much more famous flavored whiskey (Southern Comfort), but that has not happened. 

Sales were flat for the quarter and operating income was down 9% because of advanced purchasing in several markets as well as increased advertising. The company is cautious about taking price, despite the strength of brands, due to the weak economy. Management emphasized that for the first nine months of the fiscal year revenue and operating income are still up and diluted EPS is up 8%. 

For a family-controlled company of Brown-Forman's strength, shareholders should be happy with 8% EPS growth. And they mostly seem to be. 

The share price is steady, like everything with the company, down 0.27% as of writing. This steadiness is not a recent phenomenon -- for eight of the past 10 years, the company's stock has stayed between 19.9 times and 24.1 times earnings (the financial crisis years of 2008 and 2009 being the exception). Compare this to Diageo (NYSE: DEO  ) , whose P/E has fluctuated between 14.6 times earnings and 21.2 times earnings (even excluding 2008 and 2009). It's the same story for Constellation Brands (NYSE: STZ  ) , which has traded between a P/E of 6.5 and 21.7 in just six years. With its long-term stability, Brown-Forman helps investors and imbibers sleep soundly.

For investors looking for a steady family-controlled business with solid growth but few thrills, partnering with the Brown family is still the best game in town. 

To see if "steady as she goes" is the story for the next decade as well, be sure to add Brown-Forman to My Watchlist using the links below.

Fool contributor Chris Baines is a value investor. Follow him on Twitter, where he goes by @askchrisbainesChris' stock picks and pans have outperformed 89% of players on CAPS. He owns no shares of the companies mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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