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Molson Coors Brewing Co. TPX-A-T TPX-B-T is betting that strong pent-up demand for live sports and entertainment and the growth of e-commerce sales will buoy the beer giant once the economy reopens post-pandemic.

The company’s expansion beyond the beer aisle has also set the stage for future growth, Gavin Hattersley, president and chief executive officer of Molson Coors, said Thursday.

“When the on-premise (market) is more readily open, I think we’ll see a strong pent-up demand from consumers,” he told analysts during a conference call.

“The other behavioural change which we obviously experienced in 2020 is the growth of e-commerce sales,” he said. “Many consumers of alcoholic beverages didn’t realize you can buy beer online and they do now.”

Molson Coors has seen a meteoric rise in online sales — a trend Hattersley predicts will stay.

His comments came after the company announced it had incurred a US$1.37-billion net loss in its latest quarter as sports and live entertainment venues where it sells beverages remained closed amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Molson Coors, which reports earnings in U.S. dollars, said the fourth-quarter net loss is a drop from last year when it reported a net income of US$163.7 million during the same period.

Hattersley said 2020 was an incredibly challenging year, but that the company was lucky.

“The revitalization plan we announced in October 2019 positioned our company well to weather the storms of 2020,” he said.

“We expanded beyond the beer aisle and we set the stage to build our emerging growth division into a $1-billion revenue business by 2023.”

Hattersley said the company was able to accomplish its goals even with the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The fact is our plan is working,” he added. “When you consider what we set out to do under our revitalization plan and what we were faced with during the year, we accomplished an incredible amount in 2020 and that has given us a tremendous springboard for 2021.”

Molson said its loss for the period ended Dec. 31 amounted to US$6.32 per diluted share in comparison to a net income of 75 cents US per share last year.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 83 cents US per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

Sales during the quarter fell to US$2.2 billion, down from US$2.4 billion the year before.

The company reported a full-year loss of US$949 million, which compared to a profit of US$241.7 million the year before.

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