Altria Group's Q4 Earnings Impacted by Declining Cigarette Sales

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Altria Group's Q4 Earnings Impacted by Declining Cigarette Sales
Altria Group's Q4 net income is predicted to reach $5.1 billion, with a 2% decrease from last year.

According to a report by Barron's on January 31, tobacco industry giant Altria Group is set to release its fourth-quarter financial earnings. Analysts predict that Altria Group's net income will reach $5.1 billion, which is similar to the figure for 2022. Net income for the year is expected to decline by 2% compared to the same period last year, amounting to $2.1 million, with earnings per share at $1.18.


Despite more optimistic expectations for fourth-quarter performance compared to the third quarter, cigarette prices have increased by 8.7% and sales volume has dropped by 11.6% compared to the same period last year. The tobacco department's net income has declined by 5.3% compared to last year, highlighting the sales pressure. Many consumers are switching to alternative products such as heated tobacco, e-cigarettes, and oral nicotine pouches.


The weak sales performance highlights the pressure faced by tobacco companies, as British American Tobacco and Altria Group announced a $32 billion cut in cigarette brands in December last year, triggering a major industry sell-off. Altria Group's sales volume for oral tobacco products declined by 3.3% compared to the previous year, but the higher prices offset this loss, resulting in a 2.3% increase in net income for the sector.


The Chief Financial Officer of the company, Saul Mancozo, has stated that inflation, declining consumer income, and the emergence of illicit e-cigarettes have had an impact on the customer base. Despite a low stock price, Altria Group has managed to boost shareholder returns through share repurchases and dividend payments. In the first nine months of 2023, the company repurchased 16.3 million shares, returning $732 million in cash to shareholders, and is expected to complete an additional $268 million worth of stock repurchases by the end of 2023.


Further Exploration and Development


Altria Group is a company known for its reliable dividend returns, having experienced 54 consecutive years of dividend growth. The management has stated their plans for a single-digit annual growth, and has made an optimistic projection for the full-year earnings per share in 2023, expecting it to grow between $4.91 and $4.98, representing a 1.5% to 3% increase.


Despite the limited performance of Altria Group's stock due to rising commodity prices, Wall Street analysts remain optimistic towards the stock. The average target price is $47, representing an almost 18% increase from the current $40. Goldman Sachs analysts predict that Altria Group will offset declining sales volumes with strong price increases in the fourth quarter, but they also point out that the stock may continue to trade within a range until the trend of declining sales stabilizes.


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