It looks like everybody's favorite whipping boy, Altria (NYSE:MO), is close to the end of its long road of U.S. tobacco litigation. Appeals bonds are being returned, huge and potentially bankrupting awards have gotten quashed, and those remaining opponents seem more willing to give ground than before.

With major litigation risk seemingly fading into the annals of corporate history, Altria is about to undergo some pretty substantial changes. It's no secret that the company wants to complete the spinoff of Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT) and thereby unlock some value for each company. Once that happens, the company will be a tobacco company with a sizable ownership stake in SABMiller, and may find itself out of the Dow (perhaps replaced by Kraft Foods).

Moreover, if you look at recent results, it seems pretty likely that Altria will be a low-growth cash machine in the future. Total revenue was up 4%, with international tobacco revenue leading the way in both growth and absolute dollars at 6.4% and more than $12 billion, respectively. Domestic tobacco revenue was actually down a bit on lower adjusted shipping volume.

It remains to be seen what the ultimate dividend payout and valuation range will look like on Altria once the Kraft business is taken care of. I don't mind investing in a tobacco business per se, but the payout needs to be competitive with other investment ideas that are principally about the dividends/distributions like pipelines and royalty trusts.

Unlike folks who transport gas, pump oil, or chop down trees, Altria will actually have some future control of its earnings. Advertising built the Marlboro brand and can continue to do so. Likewise, pricing and global operating efficiencies give management a few more levers to pull than your run-of-the-mill royalty play. So while I don't necessarily expect Altria to trade at parity with these no-to-low-growth alternatives, we have yet to see how it's all going to work out. Though I'll be checking in on Altria from time to time, there's not yet enough value here to excite me.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of SABMiller, but has no financial interest in any other stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).