Shares of Altria Group (NYSE: MO) were up slightly in afternoon trade on Wednesday. The stock has dropped 18% over the past one year and is currently trading 26% below its 52-week high of $57.88.
The company seems to be having a hard time with its JUUL investment that has been plagued with impairments and losses due to the regulatory issues being faced by JUUL. In 2019, Altria recorded non-cash, pre-tax impairment charges of $8.6 billion on its JUUL investment, bringing the value of the investment to $4.2 billion as of December 31, 2019.
Although Altria appears to be in a weak spot right now, here is why the company is likely to prevail and maybe see a pickup going forward. Altria’s primary business will remain pretty much stable over the coming years as the trend of cigarette smoking is not going to disappear overnight and the company has a strong footing in the space.
Despite weakness in its smokeable products, the company’s smokeless products are stable, thereby providing a cushion. In the fourth quarter, revenues from smokeable products fell 2.7% while smokeless products revenues rose 5.8%.
Secondly, Altria’s investment in cannabis company Cronos (NASDAQ: CRON) opens up vast opportunities in this rapidly-growing space. Cronos recorded an increase of over 200% in its revenues for the third quarter of 2019.
The company sold 3,142 kg of products in Canada, compared to 514 kg last year, helped by higher cannabis production and the launch of the adult-use market in Canada. The opportunities in the cannabis space are projected to increase vastly in Canada as well as in the US going forward and Altria stands to benefit from this trend.
Lastly, coming to JUUL, the company holds the lion’s share of the US e-cigarette market and the e-cigarette industry is not likely to die down so soon. According to data from Technavio, JUUL held around 75% of the market share in the US e-cigarette market in 2019.
The report states that the global e-cigarette market is projected to increase by $38.4 billion from 2019-2023. In this scenario, JUUL might not disappear from the scene completely. The company is more likely to come back in a tightly-regulated and closely-monitored environment.
Once the regulatory issues are over, JUUL’s performance is likely to stabilize and provide better returns to Altria. All in all, there is a good chance of things picking up for Altria in the not-too-distant future.
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