Constellation Brands's relatively healthy revenue growth in the U.S. beer market, paired with strong profitability and a new investment in cannabis makes the stock one of Cowen's top stock picks heading into 2019.
Since the Corona maker first announced its $4 billion investment in Canopy Growth, shares have fallen almost 15 percent, providing savvy investors with a good entry point, analyst Vivien Azer wrote Monday. Azer, who is one of just a few analysts covering the cannabis industry, said early fears that Constellation may have overpaid for its stake in Canopy should quiet as the Canadian adult use market stabilizes.
"Constellation Brands remains our overall top pick as we approach 2019. Best in class revenue growth within U.S. beer, coupled with strong profitability has afforded them the opportunity to leverage this strong operating performance," Azer wrote, referring to the stake in Smiths Falls-based Canopy Growth. The cannabis investment is "a strategic long-term investment that should pay dividends as the Canadian adult use market sorts itself out and sales continue to ramp, in addition to the international medical opportunity."
The Svedka vodka producer said in August that it's investing about $4 billion into Ontario-based marijuana grower Canopy Growth, one of the largest bets to date on the burgeoning cannabis industry.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The recreational use of cannabis was legalized in Canada on Oct. 17, pitting the country's top pot producers against each other as analysts and management try to assess demand for marijuana. Early government studies suggest, however, that younger consumers continue to migrate toward cannabis and away from alcohol.
Since Constellation announced the $4 billion investment, its stock has entered a bear market, down more than 21 percent from its 52-week high amid market volatility and worries of a global economic slowdown. The U.S. beer market, meanwhile, is on pace to post one its worst years ever following a bleak 2017 as consumers abandon lagers in favor of wine or cocktails.
Total alcohol consumption fell for a third straight year in 2017 with a decline of 0.7 percent in the U.S. due to a struggling beer category, according to IWSR, a drinks market research firm. The firm added that though wine and spirits experienced growth of 1 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, those gains were not enough to offset a massive decline in beer of 29.4 million nine-liter cases (1.1 percent), which holds the majority share of alcohol volume.
Notwithstanding the industry projection, Azer argued that revenue growth at Constellation is still at or above trend. Products like low-calorie Corona Premier and Corona Familiar, a beer targeted to Hispanic drinkers, appear to have revitalized the popular Mexican brand.
"While Constellation's sales have slowed some, they are still growing double digits in Nielsen tracked channels," the analyst wrote. There's plenty of room for the company "to continue to capture market share gains and generate strong revenue growth."