Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO) was the target of a large drop in short interest in March. As of March 29th, there was short interest totalling 16,715,767 shares, a drop of 25.6% from the March 15th total of 22,474,617 shares. Based on an average daily volume of 8,923,696 shares, the days-to-cover ratio is currently 1.9 days. Currently, 0.9% of the shares of the stock are sold short.

A number of brokerages recently issued reports on MO. Royal Bank of Canada reiterated a “sector perform” rating and set a $62.00 target price (down previously from $65.00) on shares of Altria Group in a research report on Monday, February 5th. Vetr upgraded shares of Altria Group from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $71.45 target price for the company in a research report on Monday, February 5th. Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Altria Group from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $78.00 price objective for the company in a research report on Tuesday, February 6th. Argus restated a “buy” rating and issued a $79.00 price objective (up previously from $66.13) on shares of Altria Group in a research report on Wednesday, March 14th. Finally, Jefferies Group restated a “buy” rating and issued a $84.00 price objective on shares of Altria Group in a research report on Thursday, March 15th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, two have assigned a hold rating, eleven have assigned a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average price target of $74.53.

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MO opened at $64.25 on Tuesday. The company has a quick ratio of 0.31, a current ratio of 0.64 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.85. The stock has a market capitalization of $121,533.71, a price-to-earnings ratio of 19.01, a P/E/G ratio of 1.85 and a beta of 0.62. Altria Group has a 1-year low of $59.07 and a 1-year high of $77.79.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last posted its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, February 1st. The company reported $0.91 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $0.80 by $0.11. The firm had revenue of $4.71 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $4.80 billion. Altria Group had a net margin of 39.97% and a return on equity of 50.01%. The company’s quarterly revenue was down .4% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter last year, the company posted $0.68 EPS. equities research analysts forecast that Altria Group will post 4.01 EPS for the current year.

Altria Group announced that its Board of Directors has approved a stock repurchase program on Thursday, February 1st that allows the company to buyback $1.00 billion in shares. This buyback authorization allows the company to buy shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback programs are generally an indication that the company’s board of directors believes its shares are undervalued.

The business also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, April 10th. Shareholders of record on Thursday, March 15th were given a $0.70 dividend. This represents a $2.80 annualized dividend and a yield of 4.36%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Wednesday, March 14th. This is a boost from Altria Group’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.66. Altria Group’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 82.84%.

In related news, VP W Hildebrandt Surgner, Jr. sold 3,200 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Friday, March 2nd. The shares were sold at an average price of $62.34, for a total transaction of $199,488.00. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at the SEC website. Also, CEO Craig A. Johnson sold 14,953 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Thursday, February 8th. The stock was sold at an average price of $66.59, for a total transaction of $995,720.27. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now owns 64,809 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $4,315,631.31. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold a total of 28,117 shares of company stock valued at $1,821,707 in the last quarter. 0.11% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Several large investors have recently modified their holdings of MO. Balentine LLC grew its position in shares of Altria Group by 32.4% during the 2nd quarter. Balentine LLC now owns 1,460 shares of the company’s stock worth $109,000 after buying an additional 357 shares during the period. NewSquare Capital LLC grew its position in shares of Altria Group by 4,734.7% during the 3rd quarter. NewSquare Capital LLC now owns 108,780 shares of the company’s stock worth $109,000 after buying an additional 106,530 shares during the period. Quantum Capital Management LLC NJ acquired a new stake in shares of Altria Group during the 3rd quarter worth approximately $114,000. Northwest Investment Counselors LLC grew its position in shares of Altria Group by 557.0% during the 3rd quarter. Northwest Investment Counselors LLC now owns 1,820 shares of the company’s stock worth $115,000 after buying an additional 1,543 shares during the period. Finally, Oak Point Wealth Management acquired a new stake in shares of Altria Group during the 4th quarter worth approximately $120,000. Institutional investors own 62.54% of the company’s stock.

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Altria Group Company Profile

Altria Group, Inc is a holding company. The Company’s segments include smokeable products, smokeless products and wine. The Company’s subsidiaries include Philip Morris USA Inc (PM USA), which is engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes in the United States; John Middleton Co (Middleton), which is engaged in the manufacture and sale of machine-made cigars and pipe tobacco, and UST LLC (UST), which, through its subsidiaries, including U.S.

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