Molson Coors CEO to step down as profits continue to sag in flat beer market

Molson Coors chief executive Mark R. Hunter gets set to start the company's annual meeting Wednesday, May 17, 2017 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Molson Coors Brewing Co. says chief executive Mark Hunter will retire next month after 17 years with the company, to be replaced by head of U.S. operations Gavin Hattersley.

The brewer has grappled with declining beer demand in North America under Hunter’s stewardship as consumers turn toward craft beers along with wine and spirits.

The four-year CEO steered the buyout of SABMiller’s $12-billion stake in MillerCoors in 2016, bolstering sales in the United States.

More recently he has stepped up Molson Coors’ offering of premium and innovative beverages, including a soon-to-be launched line of cannabis-infused drinks.

But net profit for the brewer, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, fell 28 per cent last year to $1.12 billion.

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On Wednesday, the company’s stock dropped 7.1 per cent to $71.55 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange after it reported that second-quarter earnings declined 22.3 per cent to US$329.4 million from the same period last year.

Net sales revenue decreased 4.4 per cent year over year to US$2.95 billion in the quarter ended June 30.

Quarterly diluted earnings of $1.52 per share contrasted with per-share earnings of $1.88 a year earlier, and came in below analysts’ expectations of $1.65, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

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