Wall Street wasn't thrilled with the latest operating update from Constellation Brands (STZ 0.62%). The alcoholic beverage giant, which owns hit beer brands like Corona and Modelo, reported a big net loss for the selling period that ended in late August. There are supply chain challenges in parts of the business, and the wine and spirits segment is still shrinking.
Look beyond those short-term issues, though, and you'll find some good reasons to like the stock. Let's examine three factors pointing to solid returns ahead for investors willing to hold Constellation Brands' stock through the current volatility.
1. Constellation Brands is winning with beers
Constellation Brands is dominating in the beer category. Depletions, a measure of sales to consumers, was up 9% year over year on top of solid growth a year ago. Its Corona franchise expanded despite lots of competition, but Modelo and Pacifico led the way higher.
Overall, market share gains accelerated in the quarter, management said, compared to earlier in the year. And Constellation Brands is doing especially well in the premium niche that it has targeted as its core competitive space. "Our core beer brands," CEO Bill Newlands said in a press release, "continue to outshine the market."
These wins helped offset a struggling wine business that's being pinched by supply chain issues, soaring costs, and a restructuring process. But that segment is steadily improving and could return to stable depletion growth before the end of this fiscal year.
2. There's a bright margin outlook for Constellation Brands
The core beer segment is boosting profit margin despite the difficult selling conditions. Operating margin jumped higher by 3.3 percentage points to a blistering 40.5% of sales, in fact.
That success reflects Constellation Brands' strategy of targeting high-end beverage categories, its pricing power, and its marketing and innovation strengths. It also shows the wisdom of the company's integrated selling approach that allows it to control most of the supply chain, from brewing to bottling.
Executives project that the beer segment will grow operating income by between 8% and 10% this year. Annual gains could be even stronger ahead once supply chain pressures ease.
3. Cash flow is on the rise
The company reported a big net loss for the period that was mainly driven by noncash adjustments related to its ownership of Canopy Growth stock. In that context, cash flow is a better metric to follow to judge Constellation's potential returns.
Operating cash flow jumped 8% and free cash flow improved by 4% this quarter to $1.2 billion. The company is on pace to generate nearly $3 billion of operating cash flow this fiscal year, continuing a long track record that stretches on for a decade.
Those resources give the management team flexibility to continue investing in high-return projects like its brewery expansion in Mexico. Constellation plans to spend over $5 billion on that project through the next three fiscal years.
These investments should pave the way for faster growth and improving margins for many years down the road. In the meantime, shareholders can continue collecting dividends by simply holding the stock. Sure, Constellation Brands' business would be sensitive to a recession, should one develop over the next few quarters. But that's no reason to ignore an attractive stock with a bright long-term growth outlook that's winning market share today.