Is This the Future of Big Tobacco?

Philip Morris, Reynolds American, and British American Tobacco are innovating to drive growth.

Jun 15, 2014 at 9:04AM

Big tobacco companies like Philip Morris (NYSE:PM), Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI) and British American Tobacco (NYSEMKT:BTI) are well known for their defensive nature and hefty dividend payouts. But with the volume of cigarettes sold in some markets around the world in almost continual decline, big tobacco is innovating in an attempt to entice customers back to its products. The development of e-cigs is one way in which these companies are innovating to drive growth, but they are also spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the development of 'reduced risk' products.

Research and development
Philip Morris has spent a grand total of $650 million during the past three years to develop reduced risk products. The company is ramping up spending to get these products to market within the next few years.

Designed around the thought that the products must look, taste, smell, and burn like regular cigarettes, Philip Morris is counting on its new innovative products to help boost sales.

Both Philip Morris and British American have decided the best way to meet these goals is by creating devices that burn tobacco at lower temperatures. Philip Morris' new device heats tobacco to around 400 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the 1,600 degrees of a conventional cigarette.

A lower burning temperature ensures that the user still receives the same amount of nicotine and the flavor of tobacco but fewer harmful chemicals, which are usually the result of burning. 

Not that new
These initiatives are not new. Reynolds has tried to develop these kinds of devices before, although they never really took off and came under scrutiny from regulators. Reynolds made the mistake of labeling them as 'safer' than traditional smoking.

That cost the company an $8.3 million fine.  Philip Morris has been very careful to ensure that its products are labeled 'reduced risk'.

Philip Morris' first product is set to hit the market next year in a national test market and we'll have to wait until then to see how this new dawn in the tobacco industry pans out. The company has already started construction of a 30 billion unit HeatStick tobacco stick factory in Bologna, Italy, which the company plans to complete by 2016. It expects the factory to cost $800 million in total, so the company obviously has big things planned. 

Across the pond
Meanwhile, British American is adapting the technology found within asthma inhalers to produce another hybrid product similar to Philip Morris' offering.

Both Philip Morris and British American aim to create products that lessen the health risks of smoking while at the same time mimicking, as closely as possible, the taste, nicotine delivery, and behavioral experience of traditional smoking.

How will shareholders benefit?
Unfortunately, due to the facts that these products have not yet hit the market, and big tobacco is trying to keep its secrets to itself, as of yet, data on the size of the market, potential sales and profit margins are not in the public domain yet. 

Now, as these products are more technologically advanced than normal cigarettes, their profit margins are likely to be thinner. There are also start up costs to consider, so to begin with, it's likely that these products won't be a money spinner for either Philip Morris or British American. 

Over the longer term, it is likely that these products could prove to be more popular than traditional cigarettes, and this could lead to wider profit margins. What's more, governments may try and promote these products as the 'healthy' alternative to smoking, levying lower taxes on them.

Over the long-term then these products could prove to be very lucrative, although as of yet, they are still in their infancy. 

Foolish summary
So as the volume of cigarettes sold around the world continues to decline, Philip Morris and British American are innovating to drive growth. 

This new range of reduced risk products has been under development for some time now and these two tobacco giants have spared no expense in getting their development processes just right. 

Unfortunately, we will have to wait a few years before the results come through, but with Philip Morris' construction of a 30 billion unit factory within Italy, it would appear that the company has every confidence in the success of these products. 


Take advantage of this little-known tax "loophole"
Recent tax increases have affected nearly every American taxpayer. But with the right planning, you can take steps to take control of your taxes and potentially even lower your tax bill. In our brand-new special report "The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now!," you'll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don't miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.

Rupert Hargreaves has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information