Friday, October 02, 2009

Constellation Brands -- Foreign Exchange Disaster

Constellation Brands (STZ) which bills itself as the world’s largest wine company headlines some positive results such as debt reduction of $155 million for the quarter and cost reduction benefits. But revenues are down. So consumers are not drinking away the recession. In fact they are cutting back.

The company is highly leveraged so they have to squeeze out very significant debt service payments. This is what concerns me. Sales are down and accounts receivable are up. This is a classic finance 101 trouble sign. Management is not speaking to this issue.

Perhaps more importantly is the question of foreign exchange. Spirits in general and wine in particular are a global business. If you believe that US currency will depreciate vs other world currencies how will this company fare. Management provides you geographically segmented data on sales but not on costs. So if you depend on grapes from Australia or Argentina and wine sales in Manhattan do you have an iceberg straight ahead?