Altria beats 4Q profit forecasts as sales continue dropping

FILE - In this July 17, 2015, file photo, store manager Stephanie Hunt poses for photos with a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, an Altria brand, at a Smoker Friendly shop in Pittsburgh. Altria Group reports financial results on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

RICHMOND, Va. — Investment gains by Altria swelled profits during the fourth quarter, though the continuing decline of cigarette sales weighed on revenue and shares fell Wednesday.

Cigarette sales fell 1.9 percent to $5.45 billion as shipment volume of Altria's cornerstone brand, Marlboro, declined 4.8 percent. Overall cigarette shipments slumped 4.8 percent.

The Richmond, Virginia, company has cut spending to offset those declines.

In October, Altria Group Inc. said that it would consolidate the manufacturing facilities it operates and those measures should be complete in early 2018. The company expects the changes to deliver $50 million in annualized cost savings by the end of next year.

The owner of Philip Morris USA earned $10.28 billion, or $5.27 per share thanks largely to an investment the AB InBev combination with SABMiller.

Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, came to 68 cents per share, edging out Wall Street projections by a penny.

But revenue slipped 1 percent to $6.25 billion. Adjusted revenue, which excludes excise taxes, fell just under 1 percent to $3.98 billion.

Altria expects 2017 earnings in the range of $3.26 to $3.32 per share. That's shy of the per-share expectations of $3.33 from industry analyst, according to a poll by FactSet.

Shares of Altria fell more than 1 percent to $70.50, bouncing back from an earlier sell-off before the opening bell Wednesday.

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Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on MO at https://www.zacks.com/ap/MO

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Keywords: Altria, Earnings Report, Priority Earnings

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