Altria Group (MO) Lifted to “Buy” at Zacks Investment Research

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a report issued on Tuesday. The brokerage presently has a $78.00 price target on the stock. Zacks Investment Research‘s target price would indicate a potential upside of 17.24% from the company’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “Altria has been progressing well with expansion in the smokeless products category, which has helped it surpass the industry in the past six months. Notably, the company’s flagship MarkTen brand is now a leading U.S. e-vapor brand, with a substantial retail market share. These factors fueled Altria’s smokeless product revenue in fourth-quarter 2017, wherein earnings kept its stellar year-over-year growth trend intact. Results were backed by solid pricing, higher OCI and lower tax rates, stemming from recent tax reforms. However, rising health consciousness and stern government regulations to curb tobacco consumption has been hurting cigarette volumes and denting Altria’s top line for quite some time. Moreover, the Wine category remains sluggish due to stiff competition. Nonetheless, investments in key growth areas, efforts to lift Marlboro’s share and expected gains from tax reforms led to a robust earnings view.”

A number of other research analysts have also recently commented on MO. Berenberg Bank raised shares of Altria Group from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and boosted their target price for the stock from $60.01 to $71.00 in a research report on Tuesday, December 19th. Vetr cut shares of Altria Group from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating and set a $67.97 target price on the stock. in a research report on Monday, December 11th. Wells Fargo & Co boosted their target price on shares of Altria Group from $80.00 to $85.00 and gave the stock an “outperform” rating in a research report on Thursday, January 4th. Piper Jaffray Companies boosted their target price on shares of Altria Group from $76.00 to $81.00 and gave the stock an “overweight” rating in a research report on Friday. Finally, Jefferies Group raised shares of Altria Group from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and reduced their target price for the stock from $70.04 to $70.00 in a research report on Friday, January 19th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, three have given a hold rating and ten have assigned a buy rating to the company. Altria Group currently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average target price of $73.20.

Shares of Altria Group (NYSE:MO) traded up $0.49 during mid-day trading on Tuesday, reaching $66.53. 16,150,000 shares of the company’s stock were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 7,420,000. The firm has a market capitalization of $126,950.00, a PE ratio of 12.53, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.15 and a beta of 0.53. The company has a current ratio of 0.64, a quick ratio of 0.31 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.85. Altria Group has a 1 year low of $60.01 and a 1 year high of $77.79.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, February 1st. The company reported $0.91 earnings per share for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.80 by $0.11. The firm had revenue of $4.71 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $4.80 billion. Altria Group had a net margin of 39.97% and a return on equity of 50.01%. Altria Group’s revenue was down .4% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same period in the previous year, the company posted $0.68 earnings per share. research analysts anticipate that Altria Group will post 4 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

Altria Group announced that its board has initiated a stock repurchase plan on Thursday, February 1st that authorizes the company to repurchase $1.00 billion in outstanding shares. This repurchase authorization authorizes the company to purchase shares of its stock through open market purchases. Shares repurchase plans are usually a sign that the company’s board of directors believes its stock is undervalued.

Institutional investors and hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of the stock. Solaris Asset Management LLC increased its stake in Altria Group by 65.7% during the second quarter. Solaris Asset Management LLC now owns 1,405 shares of the company’s stock valued at $105,000 after purchasing an additional 557 shares during the last quarter. CKW Financial Group bought a new stake in Altria Group during the second quarter valued at $109,000. Balentine LLC increased its stake in Altria Group by 32.4% during the second quarter. Balentine LLC now owns 1,460 shares of the company’s stock valued at $109,000 after purchasing an additional 357 shares during the last quarter. NewSquare Capital LLC increased its stake in Altria Group by 4,734.7% during the third quarter. NewSquare Capital LLC now owns 108,780 shares of the company’s stock valued at $109,000 after purchasing an additional 106,530 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Quantum Capital Management LLC NJ bought a new stake in Altria Group during the third quarter valued at $114,000. 62.75% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

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About Altria Group

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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