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MO) is dying, but that shouldn't stop you from buying it. The $73 billion company is one of the biggest tobacco names in the world, with brands such as Marlboro under its belt. The problem is that Altria only represents the U.S. business of legacy tobacco giant Philip Morris (
Philip Morris International (
PMI) is the non-U.S. side of the business). With tobacco sales slowly declining here at home, selling cigarettes isn't exactly a growth opportunity.
But the key word there is that the declines are
slow, and as long as that remains the case, Altria will remain a cash cow that throws off a huge dividend payout -- a 4.82% yield right now. In the meantime, Altria has been expanding its portfolio in the "sin stock" world, expanding its exposure to alcohol with a 27% stake in
SBMRY) and a wholly owned winemaker in Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. That's a big departure from the firm's former ownership of
Kraft Foods (
KRFT), but it's one that makes a whole lot more sense in my view.
Regulations continue to put a very tight leash on cigarette makers' marketing efforts, and on new product offerings. But all of those challenges are already priced into shares. Customer stickiness is extremely high in the tobacco business, and that helps offset some of the marketing hurdles that Altria's faced with. As the firm continues to diversify outside of tobacco, it should stay relevant to investors. Until then, its dividend makes it worth buying for income.
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