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Constellation Brands records flat growth in US despite double digit increase in Europe

Constellation Brands, one of the world’s biggest winemakers, has booked USD100 million in impairments against its embattled Australian wine business and warned of flat growth in the US this year as high unemployment saps sales at restaurants, cafes and pubs.

The owner of Australian winery BRL Hardy, as well as a portfolio of popular international beer and spirits brands, said on-premise sales in the US were hardest hit by the economic downturn, overshadowing improving wine sales in Europe and early signs of a possible end to the crippling grape glut in California.

The company reported at the weekend that branded wine sales for the fourth quarter dropped 6 percent against the previous corresponding period, dominated by a 12 percent fall in North America. There was a 23 percent increase in Europe, driven by improved volume, while wine sales in Australia and New Zealand were unchanged.