December 8, 2009 / 1:33 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 3-Brown-Forman results trump estimates; ups view

* Q2 EPS 99 cents vs Street view $0.84

* Sales fall 4.5 pct to $892.9 mln

* Sees 2010 EPS $2.95-$3.15; prior view was $2.60-$3.00

* Shares up 1.2 pct (Adds estimates, analyst comments, share activity, byline)

By Martinne Geller and Dhanya Skariachan

NEW YORK, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Brown-Forman Corp’s (BFa.N) quarterly profit and sales trumped estimates and the maker of Jack Daniel’s whiskey raised its fiscal-year outlook citing better-than-expected sales performance in the first half.

The shares of the alcoholic beverage maker rose as much as 6.2 percent to touch a year-high of $55.47, before paring most of those gains to trade up 68 cents at $52.91 midday.

The company, also home to brands such as Southern Comfort and Finlandia, benefited from spending less on advertising and saw slightly better sales trends in the second quarter for many of its key brands compared with first-quarter levels.

Brown-Forman expects sales comparisons to ease in the rest of the year, but remains concerned about heightened industry competition and consumers trading down to less expensive drinks and dining out less frequently.

In recent times, the whiskey maker has relied on its overseas business to offset lackluster sales at home. While it saw net sales gains in Australia, Germany and France, demand was weak in Poland, the United States and South Africa.

Customers in emerging markets are trading up as these economies grow and the middle classes have more disposable income, the company said during a conference call.

Net income rose to $147.3 million, or 99 cents per share, in its fiscal second quarter ended on Oct. 31, from $143.2 million, or 94 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, expected a profit of just 84 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“Net, the upside was not high quality and the 19 percent reduction in advertising spending in (the fiscal first half of the year) raises questions, but as expected, fundamentals do not appear to be getting worse,” JP Morgan’s John Faucher said in a research note.

He affirmed his “neutral” rating on the stock.

Sales fell 4.5 percent to $892.9 million, topping analysts’ forecast of $883.7 million.

In the six months ended Oct. 31, sales growth of Jack Daniel’s, Gentleman Jack, el Jimador tequila and ready-to-drink beverages was offset by declines for Finlandia vodka and Southern Comfort.

Brown-Forman expects to earn $2.95 to $3.15 per share in fiscal 2010, up from its earlier forecast of $2.60 to $3.00 per share. It expects operating income to grow at a low-to-mid- single digit rate. (Reporting by Martinne Geller and Dhanya Skariachan; editing by Derek Caney, Dave Zimmerman and Andre Grenon)

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