Altria Group (NYSE:MO) reported third-quarter earnings Friday morning that showed the pandemic hasn't materially damaged its tobacco business, but the continuing controversy surrounding Juul Labs electronic cigarettes caused Altria to take another massive writedown of its investment in the company.
The original $12.8 billion investment that gave the tobacco giant a 38% ownership stake in the e-cig maker has now been reduced to just $1.6 billion, an 88% devaluation, after Altria wrote off another $2.6 billion and took $1.40 per share in charges to earnings.
Up in smoke
Altria's attempts to expand beyond the tobacco industry have not panned out as intended. Its investment in Juul is on its way to becoming irrelevant after even the e-cig maker wrote down the value of its business. Reuters reports Juul told employees it cut its total valuation to $10 billion from the $12 billion price it held at the end of 2019 after it exited certain international markets and restructured its business.
Altria also said it had to take a charge to its investment in Cronos after the marijuana producer recorded impairments to goodwill and intangible assets due to COVID-19. It also noted its $1 billion carrying value was actually 20% less at the end of September. Altria had invested $1.8 billion in Cronos for a 45% stake in 2018 and it believes the devaluation is temporary.
Anheuser-Busch InBev also disappointed the tobacco stock with its carrying value below Altria's investment, as the brewer announced it would not pay any dividends in the fourth quarter. It's the third time Anheuser-Busch has taken action on its payout, having twice before cut the dividend in half.