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solzberg in Gainers & Losers,

Altria's shares to continue growth

I remain upbeat about the shares of Altria Group (MO), a US based manufacturer of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Recently, the company’s issued solid financials for the third quarter of 2016. Revenues net of excise taxes increased 4.3% y-o-y to $5.2 bn surpassing consensus estimate of $5.12 bn. In Smokeable Products segment, net revenues gained 2.7% to $4.47 bn, as higher pricing compensated for a 0.9% decline in shipment volumes. At the same time, net revenues in Smokeless Products segment grew 10% to $493 mn, and Wine segment net revenues were up 9.6% to $176 mn. Operating income advanced 3.3% to $2.38 bn, and adjusted earnings per share rose 9.3% to 82 cents beating analysts’ average projection by a penny. Altria reiterated its full year 2016 guidance and expects annual adjusted EPS in the range of $2.98-3.04, which represents growth of 6.5-8.5% from 2015.

During Q3, Altria repurchased 2.6 mn shares for $171 mn and, as of Sep 30, had approximately $453 mn remaining under its current $1 bn share repurchase program, which it expects to complete by the end of 2016. Besides, Altria paid more than $1.1 bn in dividends in the third quarter and $3.3 bn for the first nine months of 2016. In August, Altria’s board increased the regular quarterly dividend by 8% to 61 cents per share, which offers a healthy annualized dividend yield of 3.7%.

On Oct 10, Anheuser-Busch InBev completed its business combination with SABMiller. Altria received a 9.6% ownership of AB InBev, and approximately $5.3 bn in pre-tax cash as per the terms of the acquisition. Altria anticipates incurring a pre-tax gain of approximately $13.7 bn, or $4.55 per share, effective in fourth-quarter 2016.

During the third quarter conference call, Altria announced that it will consolidate several of its manufacturing facilities to streamline operations and achieve greater efficiencies. The consolidation, scheduled to be completed by first-quarter 2018, is expected to deliver approximately $50 mn in cost savings by the end of 2018.

Recently, shares of Altria broke $65 resistnce level. I expect the stock to continue growth, with medium-term target at $72.