Altria Group (NYSE:MO) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a report issued on Thursday.

According to Zacks, “Altria has surpassed the industry in the past month, thanks to its progress in the smokeless products category. Growth in market share for smokeless products also benefited the company’s third-quarter 2017 earnings, which rose year over year and topped the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Further, the company expects the smokeless product category, including e-vapor products to continue performing well. Moreover, Altria remains on track with its cost-reduction initiatives and consolidation of its manufacturing facilities to streamline operations.  However, declining demand of tobacco products and stringent government regulations to curb tobacco consumption has been hurting Altria’s top line. Evidently, sales have lagged the consensus mark in seven out of the last nine quarters. Altria’s Wine category has also remained dismal for sometime now, owing to heightened competition.”

Other research analysts have also issued reports about the stock. Stifel Nicolaus reduced their target price on shares of Altria Group from $77.00 to $72.00 and set a “buy” rating for the company in a research note on Monday, July 31st. Piper Jaffray Companies set a $76.00 target price on shares of Altria Group and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research note on Thursday, July 27th. Vetr lowered shares of Altria Group from a “strong-buy” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $69.00 target price for the company. in a research note on Wednesday, September 6th. Citigroup Inc reduced their target price on shares of Altria Group from $80.00 to $75.00 and set a “buy” rating for the company in a research note on Monday, October 30th. Finally, Edward Jones upgraded shares of Altria Group from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research report on Wednesday. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, seven have assigned a hold rating, eight have issued a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the company. The stock currently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average target price of $72.06.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) traded down $0.79 during trading on Thursday, reaching $63.91. 7,138,474 shares of the company’s stock were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 7,390,000. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.14, a current ratio of 0.77 and a quick ratio of 0.48. The firm has a market cap of $121.95 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 20.22, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.61 and a beta of 0.60. Altria Group has a 52-week low of $60.01 and a 52-week high of $77.79.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last posted its earnings results on Thursday, October 26th. The company reported $0.90 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.87 by $0.03. The firm had revenue of $5.10 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $5.22 billion. Altria Group had a net margin of 60.37% and a return on equity of 49.43%. Altria Group’s revenue was down 1.8% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the previous year, the business posted $0.82 EPS. research analysts anticipate that Altria Group will post 3.28 earnings per share for the current year.

Altria Group announced that its board has initiated a share buyback plan on Thursday, July 27th that permits the company to buyback $1.00 billion in outstanding shares. This buyback authorization permits the company to reacquire up to 0.7% of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback plans are usually a sign that the company’s board of directors believes its shares are undervalued.

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In other news, Director Dinyar S. Devitre sold 32,000 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, September 21st. The shares were sold at an average price of $61.22, for a total transaction of $1,959,040.00. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is accessible through this link. Also, CEO Martin J. Barrington sold 15,300 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, August 10th. The shares were sold at an average price of $65.03, for a total transaction of $994,959.00. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now owns 701,074 shares in the company, valued at approximately $45,590,842.22. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 0.11% of the stock is owned by insiders.

A number of institutional investors and hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in MO. Janus Henderson Group PLC grew its position in Altria Group by 21,647.0% during the second quarter. Janus Henderson Group PLC now owns 19,831,702 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,476,867,000 after purchasing an additional 19,740,509 shares in the last quarter. BlackRock Inc. grew its position in Altria Group by 7.6% during the second quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 127,525,988 shares of the company’s stock valued at $9,496,859,000 after purchasing an additional 8,969,677 shares in the last quarter. Capital World Investors grew its position in Altria Group by 27.6% during the second quarter. Capital World Investors now owns 41,157,755 shares of the company’s stock valued at $3,065,018,000 after purchasing an additional 8,914,575 shares in the last quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. grew its position in Altria Group by 2.0% during the second quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 136,023,361 shares of the company’s stock valued at $10,129,659,000 after purchasing an additional 2,690,270 shares in the last quarter. Finally, APG Asset Management N.V. grew its position in Altria Group by 67.7% during the third quarter. APG Asset Management N.V. now owns 4,893,005 shares of the company’s stock valued at $310,314,000 after purchasing an additional 1,974,500 shares in the last quarter. 61.92% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Altria Group Company Profile

Altria Group, Inc is a holding company. The Company’s segments include smokeable products, smokeless products and wine. The Company’s subsidiaries include Philip Morris USA Inc (PM USA), which is engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes in the United States; John Middleton Co (Middleton), which is engaged in the manufacture and sale of machine-made cigars and pipe tobacco, and UST LLC (UST), which, through its subsidiaries, including U.S.

Analyst Recommendations for Altria Group (NYSE:MO)

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