RICHMOND, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Altria Group, Inc. (Altria) (NYSE:MO) today announces the discontinuation of production and distribution of all MarkTen and Green Smoke e-vapor products and VERVE oral nicotine containing products. This decision is based upon the current and expected financial performance of these products, coupled with regulatory restrictions that burden Altria’s ability to quickly improve these products. The company will refocus its resources on more compelling reduced-risk tobacco product opportunities.
“We remain committed to being the leader in providing adult smokers innovative alternative products that reduce risk, including e-vapor,” said Howard Willard, Chairman and CEO, Altria Group, Inc. “We do not see a path to leadership with these particular products and believe that now is the time to refocus our resources. We recognize the impact this decision has on our employees and business partners, which we do not take lightly.”
Altria’s subsidiaries will begin working with their retailers, wholesalers, contract manufacturers and suppliers to ensure an orderly process. MarkTen cig-a-likes are currently in distribution at retail and through e-commerce. Green Smoke is primarily available on e-commerce with limited retail presence. VERVE is in limited distribution at retail and e-commerce.
Altria expects to record one-time pre-tax charges of approximately $200 million, the majority of which would be non-cash asset impairment charges, in the fourth quarter of 2018 as a result of this decision. These charges will be excluded from Altria’s adjusted results.
Altria’s wholly-owned subsidiaries include Philip Morris USA Inc. (PM USA), U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company LLC (USSTC), John Middleton Co. (Middleton), Sherman Group Holdings, LLC and its subsidiaries (Nat Sherman), Nu Mark LLC (Nu Mark), Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd. (Ste. Michelle) and Philip Morris Capital Corporation (PMCC). Altria holds an equity investment in Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (AB InBev).
The brand portfolios of Altria’s tobacco operating companies include Marlboro®, Black & Mild®, Copenhagen®, Skoal®, VERVE®, MarkTen® and Green Smoke®. Ste. Michelle produces and markets premium wines sold under various labels, including Chateau Ste. Michelle®, Columbia Crest®, 14 Hands® and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars™, and it imports and markets Antinori®, Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte™, Torres® and Villa Maria Estate™ products in the United States. Trademarks and service marks related to Altria referenced in this release are the property of Altria or its subsidiaries or are used with permission.
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Forward-Looking and Cautionary Statements
This release contains projections of future results and other forward-looking statements that involve a number of risks and uncertainties and are made pursuant to the Safe Harbor Provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.
Important factors that may cause actual results and outcomes to differ materially from those contained in the projections and forward-looking statements included in this press release are described in Altria’s publicly filed reports, including its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017 and its Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ended September 30, 2018.
These factors include the following: significant competition; changes in adult consumer preferences and demand for Altria’s operating companies’ products; fluctuations in raw material availability, quality and price; reliance on key facilities and suppliers; reliance on critical information systems, many of which are managed by third-party service providers; fluctuations in levels of customer inventories; the effects of global, national and local economic and market conditions; changes to income tax laws; federal, state and local legislative activity, including actual and potential federal and state excise tax increases; increasing marketing and regulatory restrictions; the effects of price increases related to excise tax increases and concluded tobacco litigation settlements, consumption rates and consumer preferences within price segments; health concerns relating to the use of tobacco products and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke; privately imposed smoking restrictions; and, from time to time, governmental investigations.
Furthermore, the results of Altria’s tobacco businesses are dependent upon their continued ability to promote brand equity successfully; to anticipate and respond to evolving adult consumer preferences; to develop, manufacture, market and distribute products that appeal to adult tobacco consumers (including, where appropriate, through arrangements with, and investments in, third parties); to improve productivity; and to protect or enhance margins through cost savings and price increases.
Altria and its tobacco businesses are also subject to federal, state and local government regulation, including by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Altria and its subsidiaries continue to be subject to litigation, including risks associated with adverse jury and judicial determinations, courts reaching conclusions at variance with the companies’ understanding of applicable law, bonding requirements in the limited number of jurisdictions that do not limit the dollar amount of appeal bonds and certain challenges to bond cap statutes.
In addition, the factors related to Altria’s investment in AB InBev include the following: the risk that Altria’s equity securities in AB InBev are subject to restrictions on transfer until October 10, 2021; the risk that Altria’s reported earnings from and carrying value of its equity investment in AB InBev and the dividends paid by AB InBev on shares owned by Altria may be adversely affected by unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates and other factors, including the risks encountered by AB InBev in its business; the risk that the tax treatment of Altria’s transaction consideration from the AB InBev/SABMiller business combination and the accounting treatment of its equity investment are not guaranteed; and the risk that the tax treatment of Altria’s investment in AB InBev may not be as favorable as Altria anticipates.
Altria cautions that the foregoing list of important factors is not complete and does not undertake to update any forward-looking statements that it may make except as required by applicable law. All subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to Altria or any person acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements referenced above.