Rob Sands, CEO of alcoholic beverage giant Constellation Brands, came to New York City on Wednesday to talk about Corona beer and Robert Mondavi wine. And before he even took the stage, the company’s stock took an 8% nosedive.
That’s because investors are worried about what Donald Trump’s victory could mean for Constellation Brands
, owner of a Mexican brewer that targets an American customer base that could potentially face deportation.
At the beginning of the company’s institutional investor meeting, Constellation’s first in three years, Sands immediately addressed that elephant in the room.
“I don’t expect [the election] to affect our business in the short term and as these policies develop, we will respond accordingly and engage with government accordingly,” said Sands, whose company is the largest producer of wine, beer and spirits in the U.S. “And I would add: We’ve had a long history of working with our representatives from all levels of the U.S. government from both political parties. As Trump develops his plans, we will continue to engage with them.”
Sands praised the company’s impressive sales and stock performance in recent years, bolstered by billions that have been invested in new acquisitions, including a deal a few years ago to buy the U.S. assets of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo. With that deal, a side acquisition that allowed Big Beer producer Anheuser-Busch InBev
to buy Grupo, with Constellation picking up the high-flying U.S. import business. The portfolio includes Corona Extra, Modelo Especial, and Pacifico—those beers have helped Constellation become the top contributor to growth in the total U.S. beer category.
Constellation also has added craft brewer Ballast Point, Casa Noble tequila and High West craft spirits to the portfolio. Sales have been booming—net sales increased 17% in the latest quarter, with particular strength for the beer brands, though wine and spirits sales also grew.
The company also thinks it is well-positioned to capture the ever-alluring millennial generation. That group drinks far less beer than prior generations—and far more wine and spirits. That better balanced mix of all three alcoholic beverage categories plays to Constellation’s natural strength. More acquisitions could be on the horizon, executives hinted, to bulk up even more.
Despite all these strengths, Constellation Brands has some inherent risk due to Trump’s contentious relationship with Mexico, in particular his attacks on firms that produce goods there that could be made in the United States. Constellation is closely tied to that market, as both a purveyor of Mexican beers and also by physical operations in the nation.
The company is spending roughly $4.5 billion through 2021 to expand capacity at the Nava Brewery and also build a new, state-of-the-art brewery near the California border to meet expected rising demand in import beers. An additional $600 million was thrown down last month to buy a brewery from Grupo Modelo last month.
“It is going to take some time,” Sands said, addressing the Trump victory. “We will see how things will develop.”