Tobacco and food multinational Altria Group
Overall, Altria earned $1.22 per share in Q3, down 43% from last year but almost even if you take away the one-time gain of $0.81 from selling part of Miller Brewing.
Altria's execs referred to the Kraft earnings as "challenging" (not good) and left details of that company to its own reporting. We follow suit, referring you to Alyce Lomax's Kraft coverage today. The company also left litigation -- a major risk -- out of the earnings press release and conference call.
Altria said that while its quarterly revenues increased 4.7% to $20.9 billion, this came primarily from $940 million from the dollar's appreciation against the euro and other currencies. Net income declined 43% against last year's quarter, which was boosted by the Miller Brewing proceeds. Altria sees full-year 2003 EPS at $4.50 to $4.60, giving the stock today a forward P/E of about 10.
Altria's Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International (PMI) units concentrate on four focus brands: Marlboro, Parliament, Virginia Slims, and Basic brands. Though cut-rate generic competition has threatened premium brand sales, volumes were off only 1% in the U.S. and up 0.8% in Western Europe. Nevertheless, the Marlboro brand gained market share worldwide. It was noted on the conference call that in some countries -- especially Italy -- the legal and contraband competition threatens government ad valorem (based on the selling price) excise taxes, leading to the curious anomaly that protecting Philip Morris protects its own revenues.
Balancing flat U.S. and Western European volumes are a 9% increase for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, and over 3% for Asia.
Investors are happy with any sales and profit growth, because many buy Altria stock in large part for the dividend -- $2.72 a share, for a 6% yield (check out our Income Investor newsletter for more stocks that pay). And that yield hasn't changed.
The news barely moved the stock, slightly off yesterday's $45.15 close in mid-day trading.
Don't miss this sly take on company earnings from our discussion board community -- with a thought about who really profits from Altria's good news.