Altria (MO) Rating Lowered to Hold at Zacks Investment Research

Altria (NYSE:MO) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a report issued on Friday.

According to Zacks, “Rising health consciousness and stern government regulations to curb tobacco consumption has been hurting cigarette volumes and denting Altria’s top line for quite some time. Also, likelihood of these concerns to linger is evident from investors' bearish stance on the stock that has lagged the industry in the past three months. Moreover, Altria's Wine category remains sluggish due to stiff competition. Nonetheless, Altria has been progressing well with expansion in the smokeless products category. This fueled its smokeless product revenue in fourth-quarter 2017, wherein earnings kept its stellar year-over-year growth trend intact. Results were backed by solid pricing, higher OCI and lower tax rates. Further, investments in key growth areas, efforts to lift Marlboro’s share and expected gains from tax reforms led to a robust earnings view. However, estimates have dropped lately ahead of Altria's earnings release.”

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MO has been the subject of several other reports. Morgan Stanley decreased their target price on Altria from $74.00 to $70.00 and set an “equal weight” rating for the company in a research report on Wednesday. Vetr downgraded Altria from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating and set a $68.17 price objective for the company. in a report on Monday, January 22nd. Jefferies Group upgraded Altria from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and decreased their price objective for the company from $70.04 to $70.00 in a report on Friday, January 19th. Wells Fargo lifted their price objective on Altria from $80.00 to $85.00 and gave the company an “outperform” rating in a report on Thursday, January 4th. Finally, Deutsche Bank started coverage on Altria in a report on Monday, March 26th. They issued a “buy” rating and a $72.00 price objective for the company. One research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, five have assigned a hold rating, nine have issued a buy rating and one has given a strong buy rating to the stock. The stock has a consensus rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $74.21.

NYSE:MO opened at $57.23 on Friday. Altria has a twelve month low of $56.08 and a twelve month high of $77.79. The firm has a market cap of $109,807.94, a PE ratio of 16.93, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 1.68 and a beta of 0.62. The company has a quick ratio of 0.31, a current ratio of 0.64 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.85.

Altria (NYSE:MO) last released its earnings results on Thursday, February 1st. The company reported $0.91 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.80 by $0.11. Altria had a return on equity of 50.01% and a net margin of 39.97%. The business had revenue of $4.71 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $4.80 billion. During the same period last year, the company earned $0.68 earnings per share. The business’s revenue for the quarter was down .4% compared to the same quarter last year. sell-side analysts anticipate that Altria will post 4.01 earnings per share for the current year.

Altria declared that its Board of Directors has approved a share buyback program on Thursday, February 1st that permits the company to repurchase $1.00 billion in shares. This repurchase authorization permits the company to purchase shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock repurchase programs are usually a sign that the company’s board believes its stock is undervalued.

In other news, VP W Hildebrandt Surgner, Jr. sold 3,200 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, March 2nd. The stock was sold at an average price of $62.34, for a total transaction of $199,488.00. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, CEO Craig A. Johnson sold 14,953 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Thursday, February 8th. The stock was sold at an average price of $66.59, for a total value of $995,720.27. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now owns 64,809 shares in the company, valued at approximately $4,315,631.31. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold 28,117 shares of company stock valued at $1,821,707 over the last quarter. 0.11% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Several hedge funds have recently modified their holdings of the company. Vanguard Group Inc. grew its stake in shares of Altria by 2.0% during the second quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 136,023,361 shares of the company’s stock worth $10,129,659,000 after acquiring an additional 2,690,270 shares during the last quarter. BlackRock Inc. grew its stake in shares of Altria by 0.8% during the fourth quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 135,404,376 shares of the company’s stock worth $9,669,229,000 after acquiring an additional 1,140,353 shares during the last quarter. Capital World Investors grew its stake in shares of Altria by 27.6% during the second quarter. Capital World Investors now owns 41,157,755 shares of the company’s stock worth $3,065,018,000 after acquiring an additional 8,914,575 shares during the last quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp grew its stake in shares of Altria by 7.6% during the third quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp now owns 21,970,538 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,393,372,000 after acquiring an additional 1,561,120 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Geode Capital Management LLC grew its stake in shares of Altria by 3.0% during the fourth quarter. Geode Capital Management LLC now owns 21,709,187 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,547,228,000 after acquiring an additional 629,732 shares during the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 62.54% of the company’s stock.

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About Altria

Altria Group, Inc, through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes, smokeless products, and wine in the United States. It offers cigarettes primarily under the Marlboro brand; cigars principally under the Black & Mild brand; and moist smokeless tobacco products under the Copenhagen, Skoal, Red Seal, and Husky brands.

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