Another Day, Another Story: Citi's Current View of Things | MO Message Board Posts

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Msg  12943 of 12952  at  6/30/2020 5:13:35 PM  by


 In response to msg 12941 by  qv109
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Re: Another Day, Another Story: Citi's Current View of Things

I respect Adam Spielman as he has been a good analyst for the tobacco companies. But here, I think he is just looking at a very short term situation, which isn't a good rationale for long term investing.
Yes, MO is likely doing better at the moment, as the US cigarette market is doing better. That was confirmed by BAT in their mid-year update. But is that sustainable? I would argue it probably is not, because I think the two main reasons for the improvement are likely to disappear rather quickly.
The first is the switch back to cigarettes from e-vapor. JUUL's issues are known here. The new regulations, taxes and lawsuits; as well as the fact that IQOS and other new products are mostly on pause right now due to the COVID lockdowns, means there will likely be a year or more of downturn in for next generation products (which MO calls a "reset"). But I don't see this lasting longer term. All the cigarette companies and upstarts are spending a lot of money behind next generation products. Hopefully, JUUL and "On!" and IQOS will become dominant replacements for cigarettes eventually, which will allow MO to maintain dominance of the US nicotine market. But regardless, I think cigarettes in the US will likely revert back to a 4-5% annual decline in the next 3-5 years.
The second and bigger issue is unemployment benefits. With the US federal government giving unemployed workers an extra $600 weekly, nearly 2/3 of hourly wage workers are making more on unemployment than they did at their previous jobs. However, that program is coming to an end at the end of July. While I think it is possible the US might pass another law which extends that aid in part, it will go away sooner rather than later as the nation needs workers to return to their jobs, and that program is costing a fortune.
I think those high unemployment benefits have helped MO significantly, as lower income workers with extra money (plus low gas prices and needing to buy less gas) have likely helped MO and other premium brands considerably. With extra money and time, smokers are unlikely to see the need to down-trade or reduce cigarette consumption. However, once those higher benefits disappear, plus many workers don't get rehired in industries like restaurants, etc., I think there will be a much bigger hit to cigarette volumes and a bigger push to down-trade to discount brands.
That is actually what is happening in emerging markets already. With high unemployment caused by COVID, and few government programs in those countries to help unemployed workers, you have already seen the big downward hit to volumes. Fortunately for PM, they make significantly higher profits in markets like the EU and Japan, which are more like the US right now with significant government intervention.
But as things return to normal, PM is still much better positioned for longer term success. I like MO too, but mostly because it is cheap now in a market that is very expensive. But I definitely would not sell PM to put more money into MO. 

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