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solzberg in Gainers & Losers,

Altria's stock to resume growth

I remain upbeat about the shares of Altria Group, a US based manufacturer of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Recently, the company’s issued decent financials for the second quarter of 2016. Revenues net of excise taxes were flat y-o-y at $4.88 bn missing consensus estimate of $5.03 bn. In Smokeable Products segment, net revenues slipped 1.1% to $4.23 bn, as higher pricing could not compensate for a 4.9% decline in shipment volumes. At the same time, net revenues in Smokeless Products segment grew 9.2% to $488 mn, and Wine segment net revenues were up 5.8% to $165 mn. Operating income increased 8.4% to $2.41 bn, and adjusted earnings per share rose 9.5% to 81 cents beating analysts’ average projection by a penny.

During the second quarter, Altria repurchased 2.7 mn shares for a total of $173 mn. As of June 30, the company had approximately $624 mn remaining under the 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 Q2. A quarterly dividend was 56.5 cents per share, which offers a healthy annualized dividend yield of 3.4%.

Altria expects its business momentum to continue throughout the year. The company raised its 2016 adjusted earnings per share guidance to the range of $3.01-3.07, representing growth of 7.5-9.5% y-o-y. Altria also plans to continue its generous cash distribution practice and maintains dividend payout ratio target of approximately 80% of its adjusted EPS.

Earlier this year, Altria announced the implementation of an initiative that is expected to deliver approximately $300 mn in annual productivity savings by the end of 2017. Part of the savings is to be realized through reduced spending on certain infrastructure and will be invested in brand building and regulatory capabilities. Such initiatives are expected to help the company reap higher profits over the long term.

I expect Altria’s shares to resume growth, with medium-term target at $72.