Altria Group (MO) Downgraded by Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Altria Group (NYSE:MO) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a report released on Tuesday.

According to Zacks, “Declining demand of tobacco products and stringent government regulations to curb tobacco consumption has been hurting Altria’s top line for a while now. As per the recent court orders, Altria and other cigarette manufacturers have been directed to put up self-critical advertisements on television and newspapers. In the past too the FDA has proposed several regulations to curb tobacco consumption, such as lowering nicotine content in cigarettes and seeking marketing authorization for any tobacco products before they are launched. Altria’s Wine category has also remained dismal for sometime now, owing to heightened competition. However Altria’s progress in the smokeless tobacco products category is quite noteworthy and has helped its shares to surpass the industry in the past three months. Further Altria’s marketing and technology agreement with Philip Morris is also expected to boost the company’s business.”

A number of other analysts have also weighed in on MO. Vetr lowered 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 note on Wednesday, September 6th. Cowen reaffirmed a hold rating on shares of Altria Group in a research note on Sunday, September 10th. Royal Bank of Canada reaffirmed a hold rating and issued a $62.00 price objective on shares of Altria Group in a research note on Tuesday, October 3rd. Piper Jaffray Companies reaffirmed a buy rating and issued a $76.00 price objective on shares of Altria Group in a research note on Friday, October 27th. Finally, UBS Group lowered their price objective on shares of Altria Group from $72.00 to $68.00 and set a neutral rating for the company in a research note on Friday, October 27th. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, five have given a hold rating and eight have assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock presently has an average rating of Hold and an average price target of $72.87.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) traded up $0.03 during trading hours on Tuesday, reaching $70.22. 2,230,000 shares of the company were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 7,110,000. Altria Group has a 52 week low of $60.01 and a 52 week high of $77.79. The stock has a market capitalization of $133,990.00, a price-to-earnings ratio of 8.78, a PEG ratio of 2.65 and a beta of 0.62. The company has a current ratio of 0.77, a quick ratio of 0.48 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.14.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last released its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, October 26th. The company reported $0.90 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.87 by $0.03. Altria Group had a net margin of 60.37% and a return on equity of 49.43%. The company had revenue of $5.10 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $5.22 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the firm earned $0.82 earnings per share. The firm’s revenue for the quarter was down 1.8% compared to the same quarter last year. sell-side analysts predict that Altria Group will post 3.28 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The company also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Wednesday, January 10th. Shareholders of record on Thursday, December 21st will be given a dividend of $0.66 per share. This represents a $2.64 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 3.76%. The ex-dividend date is Wednesday, December 20th. Altria Group’s payout ratio is 33.00%.

Several hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in MO. Vanguard Group Inc. increased its holdings in Altria Group by 2.0% in the 2nd quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 136,023,361 shares of the company’s stock worth $10,129,659,000 after buying an additional 2,690,270 shares during the period. BlackRock Inc. increased its holdings in Altria Group by 7.6% in the 2nd quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 127,525,988 shares of the company’s stock worth $9,496,859,000 after buying an additional 8,969,677 shares during the period. Capital World Investors increased its holdings in Altria Group by 27.6% in the 2nd quarter. Capital World Investors now owns 41,157,755 shares of the company’s stock worth $3,065,018,000 after buying an additional 8,914,575 shares during the period. Bank of New York Mellon Corp increased its holdings in Altria Group by 7.6% in the 3rd quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp now owns 21,970,538 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,393,372,000 after buying an additional 1,561,120 shares during the period. Finally, Ameriprise Financial Inc. increased its holdings in Altria Group by 5.3% in the 2nd quarter. Ameriprise Financial Inc. now owns 20,802,163 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,550,057,000 after buying an additional 1,040,839 shares during the period. 62.64% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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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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