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Brown-Forman posts 2Q profit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Spirits maker Brown-Forman Corp. said Wednesday its second-quarter net income rose sharply as the maker of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey rode a wave of strong sales in the U.S. and abroad.

Backed by surging sales across its key spirits brands, the Louisville, Kentucky, company raised its full-year earnings-per-share projection to a range of $1.90 to $1.98.

Underlying net sales for the entire Jack Daniel's lineup rose 7 percent in the first six months of Brown-Forman's fiscal year. The company also reported sales growth for its key bourbon, tequila and vodka brands.

The company's CEO, Paul Varga, pointed to improving economic conditions in emerging markets and continued momentum in its key spirits categories as factors behind the strong performance.

"We believe that an ever-improving combination of investment, resource allocation, revenue management, innovation and geographic expansion are important contributors to our acceleration in fiscal 2018," Varga said.

Underlying net sales grew by 6 percent in the U.S. during the first half of the fiscal year. The company reported "balanced growth" from its flagship Jack Daniel's brands. That portfolio grew when it launched Jack Daniel's Tennessee Rye in the U.S. during the second quarter.

The company also reported double-digit underlying net sales growth for its Woodford Reserve and Old Forester bourbon brands in the U.S. Its tequila brands also posted double-digit growth.

Underlying net sales in emerging markets abroad jumped by 15 percent in the six-month period, the company said. Its two largest emerging markets, Mexico and Poland, had double-digit net sales growth.

Other strong performances were reported in such emerging markets as Russia, Turkey, Brazil, Thailand, China and Ukraine, it said.

Sales in the company's developed markets outside the U.S. rebounded as expected in the second quarter, resulting in underlying net sales growth of 5 percent for the six months, the company said.

Foreign markets account for slightly more than half of the company's sales.

Brown-Forman reported net income of $239 million, or 62 cents per share, in the second quarter ending Oct. 31. That's compared to $197 million, or 50 cents per share, a year ago.

Quarterly net sales minus excise taxes rose 10 percent, to $914 million.

Underlying net sales for Woodford Reserve surged by 21 percent in the first six months of the fiscal year. The company's other key bourbon brand, Old Forester, also posted double-digit growth.

The company's tequila brands also had strong sales, with Herradura posting 19 percent growth while el Jimador was up 10 percent. Finlandia vodka had an 8 percent increase.

Shares of Brown-Forman Corp. have risen 35 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has climbed 32 percent in the last 12 months.

A portion of this story was generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on BF.A at https://www.zacks.com/ap/BF.A