Monster rages on

by Monica Watrous
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CORONA, CALIF. — The beverage category may be fizzling in the United States, but sales of energy drinks are accelerating, said Rodney Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer of Monster Beverage Corp., which reported strong earnings growth and sales for the fourth quarter and fiscal year despite recent controversy in the category.

“Throughout the fourth quarter and continuing into 2015, the beverage industry in general has continued to show weakness,” Mr. Sacks said during a Feb. 26 earnings call with financial analysts. “However, sales in the energy drink category appear to have accelerated in the U.S. towards the end of 2014 and into 2015.”

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2014, Monster had net income of $125,332,000, equal to 75c per share, up 65% from $76,105,000, or 46c per share, for the prior-year period. Factors affecting profitability include expenses related to regulatory matters and litigation concerning the safety and marketing of Monster energy drinks. Net sales increased 12% to $605,567,000 from $540,849,000.

Net income for the year increased to $483,185,000, equal to $2.89 per share on the common stock, up 43% from $338,661,000, or $2.03 per share, the year before. Net sales advanced to $2,464,867,000, up 9.7% from $2,246,428,000 for fiscal 2013.

After the earnings were reported, Monster’s shares were trading mid-morning Feb. 27 on Nasdaq at $140.91, a surge of $16.17, or 13%, from the previous close of $124.74.

“U.S. Nielsen market statistics show the energy category continues to grow, and that Monster Energy’s growth is still outpacing the growth of the category as a whole,” Mr. Sacks said. “The new additions to the Monster family that were introduced during 2014 are gaining market share, and contributing positively to the overall increase in the company’s sales.”

In August, Monster Beverage announced a long-term strategic partnership with The Coca-Cola Co., which agreed to acquire approximately 16.7% ownership interest in Monster and transfer ownership of its non-energy business to Monster, which in turn agreed to transfer its non-energy business to Coca-Cola. Additionally, the two companies will expand distribution with Coca-Cola’s bottlers into additional territories. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter.

“We believe this partnership will strategically align both companies for the long term by combining the strengths of The Coca-Cola Co.’s worldwide bottling system with Monster’s dedicated focus and expertise as a leading energy player globally,” Mr. Sacks said. “We believe that this distribution arrangement will accelerate Monster’s opportunity to grow internationally.”
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