Cronos Group Confirms Tobacco Talks With Altria

Cronos Group Inc. (CRON) (TSX: CRON) confirmed on Tuesday that it was having discussions concerning a potential investment by tobacco company Altria Group Inc. (MO) in Cronos Group. The company statement said that “No agreement has been reached with respect to any such transaction and there can be no assurance such discussions will lead to an investment or other transaction involving the companies.”

The stock closed 11% higher on Monday after rumors of such talk sparked a run on the shares. The confirmation of the talks sent the stock another 15% higher and was lately trading at $11.23, below its 52-week high of $15.30. Yesterday Cronos sent an email to MarketWatch saying, “We do not comment on market rumors.” Last week, it was reported by The Wall Street Journal that Altria was considering taking a significant minority stake in e-cigarette company Juul Labs Inc.

In October, Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, was making headlines when it was rumored that it was in talks with another cannabis company Aphria. The Globe and Mail reported that Altria was considering an equity stake in Aphria (APHQF). However, the story source cautioned that a deal could take time to reach and that it could possibly end up not occurring. The Globe’s source said that the leadership teams from Altria and Aphria have met on several occasions. It was rumored that Altria would start with a minority stake and then ultimately push it to a majority stake.

Aphria issued a statement saying, “That there is no agreement, understanding or arrangement in place with a potential investor at this time” and then added, “Aphria will advise the investment community of any material changes, if and when they occur, in accordance with applicable disclosure requirements.”

Declining Sales

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that during 2017, about 249 billion cigarettes were sold in the United States—a 3.5% decrease from the 258 billion sold in 2016. Four companies—Philip Morris USA, Reynolds American Inc., ITG Brands, and Liggett—accounted for about 92% of U.S. cigarette sales.

By state, the average retail price of a pack of 20 cigarettes (full-priced brands), including federal and state excise taxes, ranged from $5.12 in Missouri to a high of $10.66 in New York, as of November 2016. On average, federal and state excise taxes account for 44.3% of the retail price of cigarettes.

Altria History

Altria was once known as called Philip Morris. It is based in Richmond, VA and its roots as a tobacco company date back to 1847 when it was founded in London. It was split off from Philip Morris in 2002. Its subsidiary NuMark is focused on developing and marketing e-vapor products for adult smokers and vapers. It also has a 10 percent equity investment in Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the maker of Budweiser beer.

Altria generated more than $25.5 billion dollars in sales in 2017.

Debra Borchardt

Debra BorchardtDebra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the CEO, Co-Founder, and Editor-In-Chief of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Masters degree in Business Journalism from New York University.


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