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Andreas in Gainers & Losers,

Investment idea - Altria Group

We remain upbeat about the shares of Altria Group (MO), a US tobacco and cigarette company. The company recently released a strong report for 3Q15. According to the report, revenue increased 3.2% y-o-y to USD 6.69 bn. Altria's revenue from traditional cigarettes was up 4.7% y-o-y mainly due to higher prices, revenue from smokeless cigarettes climbed 4.2% y-o-y due to higher sales volume, while revenue in the wine segment increased 8.8% y-o-y as a result of higher sales volume. EPS jumped 9.9% y-o-y to 78 cents. EPS forecast of Altria’s management for 2015 remained unchanged at USD 2.76-2.81, implying a 7.5-9.5% increase.

Altria a shareholder-friendly company. The Board of Directors recently raised quarterly dividend by 8.7% to 56.5 cents, yielding 3.7%. Furthermore, the company continues to buy back its shares. Altria spent USD 63 mn for buyback in Q3 and announced a new buyback program worth USD 1 bn until end 2016.

In addition, Altria has an expanding footprint in the electronic cigarette market. The company’s MarkTen and Green Smoke brands are quite popular in this segment. Moreover, Altria has enlarged the scope of its strategic agreement with Philip Morris in July, and now the companies will collaborate to develop and promote products in this fast-growing segment.

Notably, Altria owns a 27% stake in the world’s second-largest beer producer SABMiller, which is currently being merged with another beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev. The company’s stake in SABMiller is a non-core asset for Altria, and Anheuser-Busch’s interest in the company could be a good opportunity to dispose of it with maximum benefits. Altria could invest the proceeds from the deal into its own business or increase shareholder payouts.

We raised our target share price for Altria to USD 66. The name offers an attractive mid-term investment opportunity, especially for investors who prefer shares with high-dividend yields. The short-term technical target is USD 63.