Citi analyst Adam Spielman upgraded Altria Group to Neutral from Sell with a price target of $46, up from $45. The stock closed Thursday up 77c to $44.28. The analyst now expects "less bad" cigarette volumes next year. Electronic vapor usage will fall due to the negative publicity around vaping and the imminent flavor ban, which will help cigarettes, Spielman tells investors in a research note. Further, with Altria shares below his price target, the analyst no longer thinks the stock looks expensive relative to overseas peers. With that said, Spielman still expects the short-term news flow, both on FDA regulation and earnings, "to be difficult."
Stifel analyst Christopher Growe said he views Altria's 2% pullback on news that New York's Attorney General is filing a lawsuit against Juul as "both irrational and illogical" given the fact that Altria does not share in this legal liability. Additionally, the value of Juul has already been written down to $8.3B and he believes the actual value embedded in Altria's nearly $90B in equity value is "only a fraction" of that amount. Growe, who thinks today's volatility in the price of Altria shares is "unwarranted" and presents a strong buying opportunity, keeps a Buy rating on the stock.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is speaking during a press conference regarding the state's lawsuit against Juul Labs related to sale of vaping products to young users. The Fly notes that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra yesterday announced a lawsuit against Juul Labs. Altria Group (MO) owns a 35% stake in Juul.
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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra held a press conference to announce a lawsuit against Juul Labs. The state claims Juul failed to provide proper oversight when selling its electronic cigarettes to minors. California is asking for payment to address the costs of underage addiction, among other costs. "Juul adopted the tobacco industry's infamous playbook, employing advertisements that had no regard for public health and searching out vulnerable targets," Becerra said in a statement. "Today we take legal action against the deceptive practices that Juul and the e-cigarette industry employ to lure our kids into their vaping web." Altria Group (MO) owns a 35% stake in Juul.