Zacks Investment Research Lowers Altria Group (MO) to Hold

Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Altria Group (NYSE:MO) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research report sent to investors on Wednesday morning.

According to Zacks, “Altria, whose shares have outperformed the industry in the past three months, has been delivering year-over-year bottom-line growth for quite some time and maintained the upside in second-quarter 2018. Performance during the quarter was mainly backed by lower outstanding shares and reduced adjusted tax rate. In fact, solid performance in the first half of 2018 propelled management to raise 2018 view. Additionally, Altria has been progressing well with reduced risk products. Pricing also continues to drive the company’s top line. On the flip side, stern FDA regulations combined with increased health consciousness has been taking a toll on cigarette sales. Notably, cigarette shipment volumes fell 10.8% year over year during second quarter, wherein total cigarette retail share declined 50.2%. Sadly, volumes in this category are expected to remain soft in the forthcoming periods, owing industry-wide headwinds.”

A number of other equities analysts have also recently issued reports on MO. Morgan Stanley decreased their target price on Altria Group from $65.00 to $63.00 and set an equal weight rating on the stock in a report on Tuesday, June 26th. Piper Jaffray Companies set a $75.00 target price on Altria Group and gave the stock a buy rating in a report on Monday, July 23rd. Stifel Nicolaus decreased their target price on Altria Group from $78.00 to $65.00 and set a buy rating on the stock in a report on Friday, July 27th. ValuEngine upgraded Altria Group from a strong sell rating to a sell rating in a report on Wednesday, August 15th. Finally, Jefferies Financial Group downgraded Altria Group from a buy rating to a hold rating and set a $61.00 price target on the stock. in a report on Friday, August 24th. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, six have given a hold rating, nine have given a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the company. The company presently has an average rating of Buy and a consensus target price of $70.28.

Shares of NYSE MO opened at $60.06 on Wednesday. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.83, a quick ratio of 0.31 and a current ratio of 0.65. The firm has a market capitalization of $113.69 billion, a P/E ratio of 17.77, a P/E/G ratio of 1.71 and a beta of 0.61. Altria Group has a 52-week low of $53.91 and a 52-week high of $74.38.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last issued its earnings results on Thursday, July 26th. The company reported $1.01 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $1.00 by $0.01. The business had revenue of $4.88 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $5.02 billion. Altria Group had a return on equity of 48.88% and a net margin of 42.00%. The company’s quarterly revenue was down 3.7% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the previous year, the firm posted $0.85 EPS. As a group, research analysts expect that Altria Group will post 4 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Wednesday, October 10th. Stockholders of record on Friday, September 14th were issued a dividend of $0.80 per share. This is an increase from Altria Group’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.70. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Thursday, September 13th. This represents a $3.20 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 5.33%. Altria Group’s payout ratio is currently 94.67%.

In other Altria Group news, Director Dinyar S. Devitre sold 3,165 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, August 29th. The stock was sold at an average price of $58.44, for a total value of $184,962.60. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is accessible through the SEC website. Insiders own 0.11% of the company’s stock.

A number of hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of the business. BlackRock Inc. grew its stake in Altria Group by 3.4% in the second quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 138,589,215 shares of the company’s stock valued at $7,870,481,000 after purchasing an additional 4,581,335 shares in the last quarter. FMR LLC lifted its position in shares of Altria Group by 14.1% in the second quarter. FMR LLC now owns 37,263,858 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,116,214,000 after buying an additional 4,613,088 shares during the last quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp lifted its position in shares of Altria Group by 4.1% in the second quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp now owns 21,786,839 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,237,273,000 after buying an additional 855,416 shares during the last quarter. Barrow Hanley Mewhinney & Strauss LLC lifted its position in shares of Altria Group by 4.4% in the first quarter. Barrow Hanley Mewhinney & Strauss LLC now owns 19,553,628 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,218,582,000 after buying an additional 822,620 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Janus Henderson Group PLC lifted its position in shares of Altria Group by 2.6% in the second quarter. Janus Henderson Group PLC now owns 18,492,919 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,050,215,000 after buying an additional 460,964 shares during the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 63.12% of the company’s stock.

Altria Group Company Profile

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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