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Molson Coors Doesn't Look Ready to Serve Up Growth in Q3

By Rich Duprey - Oct 28, 2019 at 12:00PM

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The brewer is still weighed down by changing consumer preferences, higher costs, and lower demand.

Molson Coors' (TAP 0.90%) performance over the past few quarters has been nothing to toast, particularly last quarter, when sales fell across all markets, leading analysts to have dim expectations for the brewer's third quarter.

Although Molson's stock bounded higher throughout September and October after a new CEO took over and is now trading 14% higher from the lows it hit at the end of August, let's take a look at what investors might expect to find on tap when the brewer reports earnings on Wednesday, Oct. 30.

Two bottles of Coors Light in front of the Rocky Mountains.

There hasn't been much to celebrate with Molson Coors' performance lately. Image source: Coors Light.

Seltzer will be hard to break into

Weak demand led to declining volumes, especially in the U.S., where sales revenue fell 3% due to sales to wholesalers tumbling almost 7% from the year-ago period. Operating profits plunged 10%. Since the domestic market represents 68% of total revenue, the impact of the decline is magnified, and there's little reason to expect it to improve.

Like most brewers these days, Molson is hurt by the change in consumer preferences for presumed healthier beverages, such as the explosion of hard seltzer. While the brewer has its own entry in Henry's Hard Sparkling Water and says it is growing at triple-digit rates, though from a minuscule base, it was caught flat-footed by the sudden success of White Claw and Boston Beer's (SAM -2.60%) Truly brand, the two biggest hard seltzers, which account for 80% of the market right now.

Not only has Truly surpassed Boston Beer's own flagship brand as its biggest-selling product, but it's become larger than Molson's Blue Moon and Anheuser-Busch InBev's Stella Artois.

There is some hope, however, though small. While the industry analysts at IRI see Coors Light sales continuing to fall, they have noted a trend slightly higher for Miller Lite, which enjoyed almost a 1% gain halfway through 2019.

Hoping for drier days

Demand has evaporated internationally, too. While considerably smaller but accounting for 18% of net sales, Europe saw brand volume drop 6.5% in the second quarter but operating profits plunge 36% year over year, which it blamed on bad weather and lapping last year's World Cup.

Molson's U.K. president and CEO Simon Cox told analysts on the last earnings conference call that weather really plays a large role in the volumes it's able to sell, more so even than the World Cup. Yet regardless of how the weather played out this year, Molson is going to be going up against difficult comparables from last year, when net sales and brand volume both rose 2%.

The brewer also said it was going to update investors this quarter on its joint venture with Canadian marijuana grower HEXO (HEXO -7.49%) and all the cannabidol-infused beverages that will be in its portfolio. While it too has been weighed down with underperforming expectations, it got a nice bounce recently when it said the Truss Beverages JV had plans for six cannabis-based beverages, beginning with a CBD-infused spring water. Truss has partnered with Flow Glow Beverages, which currently distributes spring water all across North America.

Still, cannabis regulations in Canada are not conducive to broad acceptance of CBD beverages because they dramatically limit the amount of THC that can be present in a drink. Although even states in the U.S. where such drinks are permissible allow beverages to contain up to 10 milligrams of THC per serving, Canada only allows that much per package. A six-pack of such drinks, therefore, can only have 10 mg across all six bottles. It remains to be seen whether people adopt a "it's better than nothing" mindset.

What's it worth to investors?

Analysts are looking for Molson Coors to record a 2.5% drop in revenue to $2.8 billion, while earnings are expected to tumble to $1.46 per share, a better-than-20% decrease. The brewer might experience pockets of growth this time around, especially if the weather cleared up this summer overseas, but investors might still be left crying in their beer by the performance.

Rich Duprey has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Boston Beer. The Motley Fool owns shares of Molson Coors Brewing. The Motley Fool recommends Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and HEXO. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Molson Coors Beverage Company Stock Quote
Molson Coors Beverage Company
TAP
$55.13 (0.90%) $0.49
The Boston Beer Company, Inc. Stock Quote
The Boston Beer Company, Inc.
SAM
$374.32 (-2.60%) $-9.99
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV Stock Quote
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV
BUD
$53.55 (-0.85%) $0.46
HEXO Stock Quote
HEXO
HEXO
$0.21 (-7.49%) $0.02

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