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Wells Fargo: Altria Stock Is Extremely Cheap

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Wells Fargo: Altria Stock Is Extremely Cheap
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Altria Group Inc (NYSE: MO) stock is down more than 15 percent in the last month as concerns over a potential U.S. ban on menthol cigarettes weigh on investor sentiment. One Wall Street analyst said value investors have a rare opportunity to buy Altria following the sell-off.

The Analyst

Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog reiterated an Outperform rating on Altria and lowered the price target from $75 to $65.

The Thesis

Altria shares are trading at their lowest valuation in the past five years, Herzog said in a Monday note. (See her track record here.) 

The sell-off has pushed Altria’s dividend yield to an impressive 6 percent, the analyst said. 

On Nov. 15, FDA head and cancer survivor Scott Gottlieb announced new restrictions on flavored vaping products. Gottlieb got tobacco investors’ attention by also proposing an outright ban on menthol cigarettes, which represent about 35 percent of total U.S. cigarette sales.

While the announcement spooked the market, Herzog said Monday that the potential crackdown may not be as bad as it seems for Altria.

“The FDA’s recent decision to restrict e-cig flavors and pursue menthol cig/cigar bans, while broadly concerning, doesn’t materially impact near-term trends and importantly, the e-cig flavor regulations could actually benefit MO on a relative basis considering JUUL has the most to lose." 

British American Tobacco PLC (NYSE: BTI) would potentially take the biggest hit from a menthol ban, with about 55 percent of its U.S. volume coming from menthol sales, Herzog said. About 21 percent of Altria’s North American volume and 20 percent of Imperial Tobacco Group plc (OTC: IMBBY) volume comes from menthols, she said. 

Height Securities recently estimated that the soonest a potential menthol cigarette ban could be enacted is late 2020.

Price Action

Altria stock was down 1.25 percent at $53.05 at the time of publication Monday. 

Related Links:

How Long Before The FDA Could Ban Menthol Cigarettes?

Analysts Weigh In On The FDA's Position On E-Cigarettes, Menthols

Latest Ratings for MO

DateFirmActionFromTo
Dec 2018BarclaysInitiates Coverage OnOverweight
Oct 2018ArgusMaintainsBuyBuy
Oct 2018BernsteinInitiates Coverage OnMarket Perform

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Posted-In: Bonnie Herzog Wells FargoAnalyst Color Price Target Reiteration Analyst Ratings Best of Benzinga

 

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