Coronavirus shutdowns work ‘to our advantage,’ Constellation Brands CEO says

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a vast number of restaurants and bars to close across the country, but one beer maker continues to see an opportunity in the market.

Bill Newlands, president and chief executive of Constellation Brands, a producer and distributor of beer, wine and liquor, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer its business makeup will limit the impact of a downturn on the company.

“You see a lot of channel shift, and you see this in many recessionary environments,” he said in a “Mad Money” interview Friday. “This one, admittedly, is a bit uncharted because one piece is really closed, which is the on-premise [consumption], as you know, but you do see channel shifting and you see people buying more and you see them consuming it at home.”

While consumers can’t crack open a beer at their favorite local bar due to shutdowns, they can still buy alcohol and consume it at home, given the beverages were deemed essential by governments.

“Given that 85% to 90% of our business across all three sectors is done in the off premise, it really works to our advantage, to some degree,” Newlands said.

Off premise, as Newlands referred to, means direct-to-consumer sales that allow products to be used outside of a bar or restaurant. Constellation Brands products are carried at bars, supermarkets and liquor stores. The company’s brands include Corona, Modelo and Svedka Vodka, among others.

The comments came after Constellation reported better-than-expected results for the quarter ended February. The fourth-quarter report was the last of Constellation’s 2020 fiscal year. The company reported earnings of $2.06 per share on revenue of $1.9 billion, beating FactSet estimates of $1.64 EPS and $1.8 billion in revenue.

While Newlands is expecting strong sales for March, the company decided it was too “risky” to offer a full-year outlook due to coronavirus uncertainty.

“When you look at our March, our March has been superb, but some of that’s obviously pantry loading and you really don’t know where it’s going to land,” Newlands said in regard to guidance. “We know what happens in recessions, but it’s uncharted waters and … we’d be better off giving guidance later when we have a much better understanding of how things are going to work out.”

Production of Corona beer, which is made by Grupo Modelo in Mexico and exported to 180 countries, was halted on Thursday after the Mexican government declared breweries to be nonessential businesses.

Still, Newlands assured that Constellation Brands has enough of its products to meet demand.

“In this country, alcohol beverage is deemed essential,” he said. “The opportunity to continue to sell and to meet consumer demand is there, and we have the supply to do it.”

Constellation shares rose 0.7% during the session to close at $132.17, though it was almost $3 off its intraday trading high, while the broader market slid more than 1%.

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