Altria Group backs FY19 adj. EPS view of $4.15-$4.27, consensus $4.19
Altria reaffirms its guidance for 2019 full-year adjusted diluted EPS to be in a range of $4.15 to $4.27, representing a growth rate of 4% to 7% from an adjusted diluted EPS base of $3.99 in 2018, as shown in Schedule 6. Altria's 2019 guidance reflects its expectation for a higher full-year adjusted effective tax rate, primarily resulting from lower dividends from AB InBev; increased interest expense from the debt incurred to fund the Cronos and JUUL transactions; savings from the Cost Reduction Program, which Altria expects to build over the course of the year to an annualized level of approximately $575 million; and increased investments related to PM USA's lead market plans for launching IQOS, once authorized by the FDA. The guidance assumes little-to-no earnings or cash contributions from the Cronos and JUUL investments. Altria revises its estimate for the 2019 full-year total domestic cigarette industry volume decline rate to a range of 4% to 5%, primarily due to increased gas prices and other factors that Altria believes impacted adult tobacco consumer behavior in the first quarter of 2019. Altria reaffirms its 2019 full-year adjusted effective tax rate to be in a range of 23.5% to 24.5%.