) to buy from hold.
Analyst Laurie Hahn says distributor contacts indicate volumes tracking ahead of expectations in the fourth quarter.
She notes strength in seasonals and better Light comparable sales driving most of the year-over-year improvement, while the Lager is showing some recovery. Most importantly, she notes data points indicate underlying strength in retail demand.
Hahn raises her 82 cents 2004 earnings per share estimate to 86 cents, and 95 2005 earnings per share to $1.04. She believes Boston Beer's portfolio is likely to outperform in an otherwise difficult beer environment, which could ultimately attract an acquirer.