(Updates closing share price)
SYDNEY, May 13 (Reuters) - Treasury Wine Estates on Thursday announced a market-beating full-year operating profit forecast, as the world’s largest listed winemaker weathers the impact of steep Chinese tariffs on Australian wine.
The company said it expects earnings before interest, tax, SGARA and material items (EBITS) of A$495 million to A$515 million ($382.64 million to $398.10 million) for 2021, down from A$533.5 million a year earlier.
If achieved, operating earnings for the second half of fiscal 2021 would top interim earnings - an improvement from what the company had flagged in February.
The range was also ahead of market expectations, Goldman Sachs analysts said, and the firm’s shares closed up 2.7% in a broadly weaker market.
In an update on Thursday, Treasury said it was targeting “high single-digit average” earnings growth over the long term.
“We are now very focused on positioning our business for the next phase of its growth journey.” Chief executive Tim Ford told investors.
Treasury has had a difficult 18 months as the COVID-19 pandemic halted consumption of premium wines in restaurants, while the Chinese market has been effectively closed to Australian wine due to high tariffs imposed by Beijing.
The tariffs come amid worsening diplomatic relations between China and Australia and follow an industry-wide anti-dumping investigation launched by Beijing last year to examine any damage to the domestic wine industry from Australian wine imports.
In response, Treasury is trying to re-direct sales of its prized Penfolds label to the U.S., Europe, elsewhere in Asia and domestically.
After a 43% slump in first-half net profit and a cut in interim dividends by a quarter in February, Treasury announced it would split its business in brand-led divisions to target global growth.
On Thursday, it said its Penfolds unit was targeting EBITS margins of 40%-to-50%, from 47% in fiscal 2020, while its “ambition” was to achieve EBIT margins in the “high-teens” in its premium brands unit, from 9% in fiscal 2020; and 25% in its Americas unit, more than double the 2020 margin of 12%.
The disclosure “provides confidence in the outlook during a period of ongoing change in the company,” Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note to clients.
“Long term guidance will provide comfort to existing longer term forecasts ... (and) new divisional disclosure are a good addition to transparency, although 1H21 metrics were not provided.”
Treasury also outlined a commitment to operate on 100% renewable electricity by 2024, and to have “net zero” carbon emissions by 2030.
$1 = 1.2937 Australian dollars Reporting by Paulina Duran and Shashwat Awasthi; Editing by Shri Navaratnam