Altria Group (NYSE:MO) Stock Rating Lowered by Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Altria Group (NYSE:MO) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research report released on Monday, October 16th.

According to Zacks, “Shares of Altria have underperformed the industry in the last three months, owing to declining demand of tobacco. The ongoing anti-tobacco campaigns and price rise to offset surging taxes have been hurting the demand for tobacco. Nevertheless, we believe the company’s shift to low-risk, smokeless tobacco products to boost market share remains appealing. Altria has proactively responded to the changing market scenario toward low-risk tobacco products and offered several reduced risk tobacco products which helped it to maintain market share. MarkTen e-cigarette and Green Smoke e-vapor are few flagship products belonging to this category. Further, Altria is expected to sell Philip Morris’s iQOS heated tobacco product in the domestic market, once it gains approval from the FDA. The company is also on track with its cost-reduction initiatives and consolidation of certain manufacturing facilities to streamline operations.”

A number of other brokerages also recently weighed in on MO. Stifel Nicolaus lowered their price objective on shares of Altria Group from $77.00 to $72.00 and set a buy rating for the company in a research report on Monday, July 31st. Piper Jaffray Companies set a $76.00 price objective on shares of Altria Group and gave the company a buy rating in a research report on Thursday, July 27th. BidaskClub downgraded shares of Altria Group from a strong-buy rating to a buy rating in a research report on Wednesday, June 28th. Vetr downgraded shares of Altria Group from a strong-buy rating to a buy rating and set a $69.00 price objective for the company. in a research report on Wednesday, September 6th. Finally, Cowen and Company reaffirmed a hold rating and set a $74.00 price objective on shares of Altria Group in a research report on Tuesday, July 11th. One research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, seven have assigned a hold rating and seven have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. Altria Group presently has an average rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $71.71.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) traded down 1.32% on Monday, reaching $64.92. The company’s stock had a trading volume of 6,473,774 shares. Altria Group has a 52 week low of $60.01 and a 52 week high of $77.79. The company has a 50 day moving average of $63.54 and a 200 day moving average of $69.11. The firm has a market capitalization of $125.17 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 8.56 and a beta of 0.64.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last released its earnings results on Thursday, October 26th. The company reported $0.90 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.87 by $0.03. The company had revenue of $5.10 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $5.22 billion. Altria Group had a net margin of 60.37% and a return on equity of 49.43%. The company’s revenue was down 1.8% on a year-over-year basis. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm earned $0.82 EPS. On average, analysts forecast that Altria Group will post $3.28 earnings per share for the current year.

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The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, October 10th. Stockholders of record on Friday, September 15th were paid a $0.66 dividend. This is a positive change from Altria Group’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.61. This represents a $2.64 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 4.07%. The ex-dividend date was Thursday, September 14th. Altria Group’s dividend payout ratio is currently 33.04%.

Altria Group announced that its Board of Directors has authorized a share repurchase program on Thursday, July 27th that authorizes the company to repurchase $1.00 billion in shares. This repurchase authorization authorizes the company to repurchase up to 0.7% of its shares through open market purchases. Shares repurchase programs are generally an indication that the company’s management believes its stock is undervalued.

In other news, CEO Martin J. Barrington sold 15,300 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, August 10th. The shares were sold at an average price of $65.03, for a total transaction of $994,959.00. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now owns 701,074 shares in the company, valued at $45,590,842.22. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this hyperlink. Also, Director Dinyar S. Devitre sold 32,000 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, September 21st. The shares were sold at an average price of $61.22, for a total transaction of $1,959,040.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Corporate insiders own 0.11% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. Sterling Investment Advisors Ltd. raised its holdings in shares of Altria Group by 133.3% during the first quarter. Sterling Investment Advisors Ltd. now owns 1,400 shares of the company’s stock valued at $100,000 after acquiring an additional 800 shares during the period. Solaris Asset Management LLC increased its stake in Altria Group by 65.7% in the 2nd quarter. Solaris Asset Management LLC now owns 1,405 shares of the company’s stock valued at $105,000 after buying an additional 557 shares during the period. CKW Financial Group acquired a new position in Altria Group in the 2nd quarter valued at approximately $109,000. Balentine LLC increased its stake in Altria Group by 32.4% in the 2nd quarter. Balentine LLC now owns 1,460 shares of the company’s stock valued at $109,000 after buying an additional 357 shares during the period. Finally, Perigon Wealth Management LLC increased its stake in Altria Group by 4.7% in the 1st quarter. Perigon Wealth Management LLC now owns 1,641 shares of the company’s stock valued at $118,000 after buying an additional 74 shares during the period. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 61.74% of the company’s stock.

Altria Group Company Profile

Altria Group, Inc is a holding company. The Company’s segments include smokeable products, smokeless products and wine. The Company’s subsidiaries include Philip Morris USA Inc (PM USA), which is engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes in the United States; John Middleton Co (Middleton), which is engaged in the manufacture and sale of machine-made cigars and pipe tobacco, and UST LLC (UST), which, through its subsidiaries, including U.S.

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