Jack Daniel’s Maker Cuts Profit Forecast on Trade War Impact

(Bloomberg) -- The trade war is having a tangible impact on the maker of Jack Daniel’s.

Brown-Forman Corp. lowered its profit forecast for the fiscal year, saying it assumes that the European Union’s tariffs, put in place in June, will remain throughout the period. Still, shares inched slightly higher Wednesday as investors had already priced in some of the risk earlier this summer.

While first-quarter earnings and sales topped analysts’ estimates, “the competitive landscape in the developed world remains intense, and recently enacted retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey have created additional uncertainty around the company’s near-term outlook,” Brown-Forman said in a statement.

Jack Daniel’s Maker Cuts Profit Forecast on Trade War Impact

The EU implemented 25 percent levies on a range of U.S. goods, including jeans, motorcycles and whiskey. The measure was in retaliation for tariffs on European products imposed by President Donald Trump. In June, Brown-Forman said that it planned to raise prices on its American whiskies sold in the EU and that its Jack Daniel’s products would likely see a 10 percent price increase, according to a spokesman.

Brown-Forman shares rose 0.3 percent to $52.39 at 12:58 p.m. in New York. They had dropped 4.7 percent this year through Tuesday’s close, compared with the 8.4 percent gain in the S&P 500 Index.

The market “is taking the tariff risk in line with recent expectations,” said Ken Shea, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “The broad takeaway is that Brown-Forman’s underlying sales performance is as robust as any of the large packaged goods companies at this time.”

European Inventory

Even before the tariffs were imposed, the company had been working to soften the impact of the levies by building up inventories in markets outside the U.S. Brown-Forman has moved more product to France, Spain, Germany and Poland, where it has its own distribution network, it said in June.

In Wednesday’s statement, the company said that retail and wholesale inventory levels, “largely related to the tariffs,” helped boost net sales growth in the first quarter that ended July 31.

Brown-Forman is absorbing a lot of the short-term tariff costs, and delaying some price increases to make sure its products remain affordable, Chief Operating Officer Lawson Whiting said on a conference call.

“While this creates some short-term pressure on gross margins, we believe it’s the right strategic move to make during a period of uncertainty,” he said. “Best case scenario is that these tariffs or at least those in the EU are rescinded over the coming months.”

Profit for the full year will range from $1.65 to $1.75 a share, the company said. That’s down from a previous forecast of $1.75 to $1.85. It expects underlying net sales to grow 6 percent to 7 percent.

In the first quarter, profit was 41 cents a share, topping analysts’ estimates by 2 cents. Net sales of $766 million also exceeded projections.

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