Strictly by the numbers, it looks like the firm was spinning its wheels. After all, earnings of $1.07 per share were the same as in the prior-year quarter. But this year's bottom line included $0.09 per share in charges.
Management would like us to put our thumbs over that line and come up with $1.16, better than the $1.13 that the average analyst was hoping to see. Of course, it'd also like us to keep our thumbs over the $0.09 per share in favorable exchange-rate benefits, without which we're back to the same old $1.07 per share.
At the very least, it looks better than the way Kraft cut the cheese this quarter, with a decline in earnings.
Net revenues were spunkier, posting a 13% gain to hit $21.8 billion. Marlboro led the way to an increase in market share in the U.S., while decent gains overseas were brought down by decreases in Italy and France.
Altria is one of those money makers that lives under a cloud, even when it's smokin'. It's working through a settlement with the EU, though, it always seems like there's a new litigation threat behind every corner for Altria.
But as a consistent performer slated for 8% earnings growth this year, and packing a nearly 5% dividend yield, it's tough to argue against owning a piece of this rock.
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