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Diageo's Full-Year Results Offer Glimpse Into Alcohol Sales During COVID-19

Diageo's Full-Year Results Offer Glimpse Into Alcohol Sales During COVID-19

Shares of Diageo plc (NYSE: DEO) were losing ground Tuesday after the parent company of Johnnie Walker and other alcohol brands released preliminary full-year results for fiscal 2020. 

What Happened: Diageo, the world's largest alcohol maker, said total net sales for the fiscal year were down 8.7% at 11.8 billion pounds ($15.4 billion).

Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes said in the release that the COVID-19 pandemic more than erased gains made in the first part of the year.

Diageo also owns iconic brands like Smirnoff vodka and Guinness beer.

The North American market recorded organic net sales growth of 2%, mostly from strong sales in grocery stores.

But this trend wasn't duplicated elsewhere, as Americans tend to consume more alcohol at home than in bars or restaurants.

Diageo's second-largest market, India, recorded a 17% organic sales decrease, as alcohol sales were banned in the country amid the pandemic.

Elsewhere, the typical Korean consumer started to transition away from Scotch in favor of low-alcohol products.

The company also took a 1.36-billion-pound impairment charge due to challenging conditions in India, Korea, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Diageo's Online Presence: The alcohol industry isn't typically associated with a thriving online business, but Diageo is adapting. The company saw its e-commerce business double in the most recent quarter, although it is still a relatively small part of the business, Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

The company is also benefiting from U.S. bars offering cocktail kits consisting of its beverages for delivery, the CEO said.

Similar delivery options are being offered throughout the world, such as in some states in India, East Africa and elsewhere, he said. 

"We are moving with a log of agility to ensure we are serving our consumers effectively under these conditions." 

Consumers Will Return: While consumers will ultimately want to return to bars, restaurants, concerts, and events, Diageo is focusing on creating experiences at home, Menezes said.

As an example, the company heavily pushed Bailey's liquor as a baking ingredient and advertised unique drink ideas out of ingredients typically found in someone's cupboard.

"There is a huge desire to get bar quality cocktails at home," the CEO said. 

DEO Price Action: Diageo shares were down 4.87% at $140.87 at last check Tuesday. 

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