Zacks Investment Research Upgrades Altria Group (MO) to “Hold”

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report issued to clients and investors on Tuesday.

According to Zacks, “Altria, whose shares have underperformed the industry in the past three months, grapples with consistently declining cigarette shipment volumes. Stern FDA regulations combined with increased health consciousness has been taking a toll on the cigarette category. Notably, cigarette shipment volumes fell 4.4% year over year during fourth-quarter 2018, owing to lower cigarette industry volumes and decline in retail share. Going ahead, management expects cigarette industry volume to decline in the range of 3.5-5%. Additionally, the company’s wine category has been sluggish, thanks to stiff competition. Nevertheless, Altria has been gaining from the popularity of Smokeless products. To further bolster this category, the company recently invested in JUUL and Cronos. Pricing also continues to drive the company’s revenues. it has also embarked upon a cost reduction initiative to counter interests burden stemming from investments.”

A number of other research firms have also issued reports on MO. ValuEngine lowered Altria Group from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a research report on Tuesday, November 13th. Barclays started coverage on Altria Group in a research report on Friday, December 7th. They set an “overweight” rating and a $64.00 price objective for the company. TheStreet lowered Altria Group from a “b-” rating to a “c+” rating in a research report on Monday, January 7th. Argus boosted their price objective on Altria Group from $70.00 to $71.00 and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Monday, October 29th. Finally, Wells Fargo & Co reduced their price objective on Altria Group from $75.00 to $65.00 and set an “outperform” rating for the company in a research report on Monday, November 26th. They noted that the move was a valuation call. Three analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, five have assigned a hold rating and eight have given a buy rating to the stock. The company presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $65.86.

NYSE:MO opened at $49.00 on Tuesday. Altria Group has a 12-month low of $42.40 and a 12-month high of $66.53. The company has a market cap of $92.07 billion, a P/E ratio of 12.28, a P/E/G ratio of 1.46 and a beta of 0.36. The company has a quick ratio of 0.09, a current ratio of 0.20 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.80.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last released its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, January 31st. The company reported $0.95 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, meeting the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.95. Altria Group had a return on equity of 49.05% and a net margin of 27.45%. The business had revenue of $4.79 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $4.81 billion. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm posted $0.91 EPS. Equities analysts expect that Altria Group will post 4.2 EPS for the current fiscal year.

Institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the business. Vanguard Group Inc. raised its stake in shares of Altria Group by 0.8% in the 3rd quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 141,423,951 shares of the company’s stock worth $8,529,279,000 after buying an additional 1,107,891 shares in the last quarter. Vanguard Group Inc raised its stake in shares of Altria Group by 0.8% in the 3rd quarter. Vanguard Group Inc now owns 141,423,951 shares of the company’s stock worth $8,529,279,000 after buying an additional 1,107,891 shares in the last quarter. BlackRock Inc. raised its stake in shares of Altria Group by 1.8% in the 3rd quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 141,022,748 shares of the company’s stock worth $8,505,083,000 after buying an additional 2,433,533 shares in the last quarter. FMR LLC raised its stake in shares of Altria Group by 10.3% in the 3rd quarter. FMR LLC now owns 41,106,747 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,479,149,000 after buying an additional 3,842,889 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Capital International Investors raised its stake in shares of Altria Group by 698.6% in the 3rd quarter. Capital International Investors now owns 31,992,124 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,929,445,000 after buying an additional 27,986,154 shares in the last quarter. 65.70% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

About Altria Group

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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