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Corona brewer Constellation seeks to sell U.S. wine brands

Constellation is trimming its wine portfolio in a gradual shift to beer and cannabis products that target a younger demographic.
Wine Conglomerate Constellation Brands Buys Corona From  Anheuser-Busch InBev
A bottle of Mark West Pinot Noir with bottles of Corona beer from beverage company Constellation, which has been turning its focus to the legal marijuana industry.Scott Olson / Getty Images file
/ Source: Reuters

Constellation Brands, which produces Corona and Modelo beers, is looking to sell some of its U.S.-based wine brands, in a deal that could be worth more than $3 billion, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Constellation's review of its wine portfolio underscores the family-controlled company's gradual shift to beer and cannabis products that target a younger demographic.

Founded as a small wine producer in upstate New York in 1945, Constellation has grown to be worth more than $40 billion, thanks to bets on offerings such as premium imported Mexican beers.

The third-largest brewer in the United States behind Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, it has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to explore the divestitures, sources said on Monday.

Among the wine brands that Constellation is considering selling are Clos du Bois, Mark West, Arbor Mist, and Cooks, one of the sources said. Collectively, Constellation could sell wine brands that generate $260 million annually, according to the sources.

The sources cautioned that no deal was certain and asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

"We continue to focus on driving growth organically and through acquisition and innovation at the higher end of our wine and spirits portfolio, which has consistently grown three- to four-times the U.S. market rate," a Constellation spokesman said in an emailed statement.

"We are also considering a variety of potential actions to optimize value at the low end of our portfolio, so we can direct our growth efforts and investment dollars more fully towards our focus brands," the Constellation spokesman added in the statement.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Wine accounted for 38.6 percent of Constellation's consolidated net sales of $7.6 billion in the 12 months to the end of February, down from 44.7 percent of net sales two years ago.

The company's beer business, on the other hand, has continued to grow. Constellation said this month that its portfolio of international and craft beer brands was the top market share gainer in the U.S. beer industry in the second quarter of this year, partly thanks to younger drinkers who continue to shun domestic beers.

Meanwhile the company has also been expanding in the legal marijuana industry, splashing out $3.8 billion in August to boost its 10 percent stake in a Canadian seller of marijuana products Canopy Growth to 38 percent.