Fortune Brands Profit Climbs on Brisk Sales

Fortune Brands Inc. (FBO), a supplier of goods ranging from Jim Beam bourbon to Titleist golf balls and a partner in this week's takeover deal for British liquor company Allied Domecq PLC (search), said Friday its first-quarter profit grew 10 percent on higher sales.

Its shares rose 2 percent.

Quarterly income rose to $152.7 million, or $1.02 per share, for the January-March period from $139.7 million, or 92 cents, in the year-ago period. Fortune Brands' earnings matched the average estimate of $1.02 per share from analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Sales of $1.79 billion were up 5 percent from $1.71 billion a year earlier, but missed the mean analyst target of $1.82 billion.

Fortune Brands said sales of home and hardware products increased 10 percent to $902.5 million, while golf equipment rose 1 percent to $342.6 million and office products were up 2 percent to $275.2 million.

Meanwhile, its spirits and wine business declined 1 percent to $272.7 million from $276.5 million the year before.

The company is teaming up with France's Pernod Ricard SA (search) to divide the assets of Allied Domecq. Pernod, which has agreed to buy Allied Domecq, will sell some of the assets acquired, including the Canadian Club whisky, Courvoisier cognac, Maker's Mark bourbon, Sauza tequila and Clos du Bois and Buena Vista premium wine brands, to Fortune Brands.

The additions will double Fortune Brands' spirits and wine sales, putting it among the top four spirits companies in the world.

The company said it is looking for double-digit earnings growth in both the second quarter and for 2005, adding that it remained on track to complete the planned spinoff of its ACCO World office products business this summer.

Shares in Fortune Brands rose $1.74 or 2 percent to $88.80 on the New York Stock Exchange (search), just off last month's 52-week high of $89.81.