Sales Boost Coors Earnings; Merger Closed

Molson Inc and Adolph Coors Co. (search) closed their merger on Wednesday to create the world's fifth-largest brewer by volume, before each reported earnings for the last time as independent companies.

Shares of the new brewer, Molson Coors Brewing Co (TAP), were trading at $74.70 about 60 minutes after debuting at $75.65 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Shortly after the merger closed, the brewers reported their quarterly results separately for the last time.

Montreal-based Molson, Canada's oldest brewer, said third-quarter profit slipped as it cut prices aggressively in Ontario and on higher costs.

It earned C$17.7 million ($14.16 million), or 14 Canadian cents a share for the period ended Dec. 31. That compared with a profit of C$43.6 million, or 34 Canadian cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

Excluding items such as the merger related costs, Molson said it earned C$51.9 million, or 41 Canadian cents a share, compared with C$59.6 million, or 47 Canadian cents a share in the year earlier period.

Analysts had expected, on average, a profit of 43 Canadian cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales revenue for the quarter was flat at C$623.2 million compared with the year-earlier quarter's C$623.3 million as lower sales in Brazil offset higher sales in Canada.

Demand for the brewer's flagship brand — Molson Canadian — fell 0.5 share points nationally while market share for all Molson beer sold in Canada fell 1.1 share points to 41.8 percent.

"It continues the trend of weakening market share and weakening margins," said Michael Palmer, president and analyst with Veritas Investment Research.

"The problem with Molson's market share in Canada, there's a great deal of activity in the discount segment and I don't think that will go away just because Coors now owns Molson."

Coors, the U.S.'s third-largest brewer before the merger, said on Wednesday profit rose 54 percent on a strong performance by its key Americas segment and a gain from asset sales in the fourth quarter.

The company reported a profit of $55.7 million, or $1.45 a share, up from $36.1 million, or 98 cents a share, a year earlier.

Sales, excluding the effect of excise taxes, rose to $1.54 billion from $1.40 billion. Net sales, which include the taxes, rose to $1.13 billion from $1.02 billion.

Volume rose 4.7 percent to 8.28 million barrels despite sluggish industry demand that has hampered the growth of larger rivals such as Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. (BUD) and SABMiller Plc. (search)