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Why Altria Stock Dropped 7%

Rich Smith, The Motley Fool

What happened

Shares of cigarette maker Altria Group (NYSE: MO) -- the artist formerly known as Philip Morris -- are down 7% as of 2:05 p.m. EDT after reporting of disappointing earnings for Q1 2019.

Altria earned $0.60 per share in Q1. The company says that if adjusted for one-time items (i.e., pro forma), it actually would have earned $0.90 per share -- but even that was short of the $0.92 per share in pro forma profits that Wall Street had projected. Sales net of excise taxes were $4.4 billion, down 6% year over year and also short of Wall Street forecasts.

Man stubbing out a cigarette in an ashtray.

Investors stub out Altria after its earnings miss. Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Viewed from the perspective of GAAP accounting, Altria's numbers were arguably even worse. Reported earnings per share of $0.60 declined 40% in comparison to last year's Q1. Net revenues (which include collection of excise taxes) declined 8% to $5.6 billion.

Altria noted that shipments of traditional cigarettes declined 14% year over year, faster than expected. One of the moves the company is making to offset this trend of declining tobacco sales is a $1.8 billion investment in marijuana firm Cronos Group (NASDAQ: CRON), which the company says it completed during the quarter. Management noted that it now has a "45% economic and voting interest in Cronos with a warrant, if exercised in full, to acquire an additional 10% equity stake" -- which would give it majority control of a second new and growing business alongside its minority stake in the JUUL vaping company.

Now what

Although investors were disappointed in the quarterly numbers, Altria says its expectations for the year as a whole remain intact. Management reaffirmed full-year 2019 guidance for pro forma profits of between $4.15 and $4.27 per share. Taken at the midpoint ($4.21 per share), that means that despite disappointing investors in the year's first quarter, it still intends to earn more than Wall Street's expected $4.19 per share before the end of the year.

If Altria delivers on that promise, investors who sold the stock today may wish they hadn't.

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Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.