PM beat Q2 top and bottom line estimates (EPS $1.41 ex-items vs consensus $1.24 and Revenue $7.80B vs consensus $7.52B) on better than expected volume trends. However, tougher EPS comps in the back half of the year on persistent macro challenges, especially from the Asia region, could drive 2014 performance to the lower end of the company's 6% to 8% guidance, or $4.87-$4.97 that was reaffirmed today. Over the longer term we’d warm to the stock. We're bullish on the Marlboro 2.0 architecture to attain new global customers from higher margin products and we believe PM is ahead of the curve on R&D behind its non-combustible Risk Reduce Product (RRP) category, which we see as a natural progression to meet and grow new product demand given declining global combustible cigarette trends.
We expect the stock to be bid up today on a marked improvement in sales at -1.5% Y/Y vs last quarter at -8.8%, however the set-up is largely as anticipated by the company due to timing dynamics and a considerably easier comp of-2.5% in Q2 2013 vs +1.8 in Q1 2013. The company boosted its OCI margin +1.2% to 44.3% despite taking a $489M charge for impairment and exit costs related to the closure of a production facility in the Netherlands and additional costs to shutter a factory in Australia.
PM offers a healthy dividend yield of 4.4% and a generous stock buyback program ($1.75B remains on a $4B 2014 repurchase target for the year), however given the aforementioned near to medium term headwinds, we’ll wait for its rich valuation to depress before we’re buyers. For now, we like its U.S. peers that do not have PM’s geographical headwinds. Further, we expect the news on 7/15 that RAI intends to buy LO to further spur investment interest in the U.S. manufacturers.
Notable geographic performance in Q2 and Outlook
Asia: Volumes fell -6.1% and operating income plunged -20.2% on the back of weakness in Australia and Japan. In Australia the main factors contributing to the decline remain down trading from the issuance of plain packaging, excise tax hikes, and heavy discounting from competitors. Japan also remained weak in the quarter with volume down -14.4% (reflecting de-stocking of trade inventories) and share fell -0.5 points to 26.4%. Unfavorable hand-rolled trends in Indonesia was partially offset by better trends in machine made. Philippines volume down 13.4%, as the Co. begins to take share from competitor Mighty Corporation as it is increasingly pressured from the government to appropriate pay excise tax (vs previously reporting half of its revenue for tax purposes).
EEMA: Russia market share up +0.9% to 26.8%, volume down -10%, with price increases up 25% Y/Y. The 4 Ruble per pack increase in May 2014 may impact consumption along with June smoking restrictions. Turkey volume increased 2.5%, with stable underlying trends.
EU: Cigarette volume was much stronger than expected, down -1.2%. Total share increased +0.9 points to 40.4%. The EU region is now expected to see FY volume declines of -5%, an improvement over the previous range of -5% to -6%. The Co. announced price increases in Germany (~20 cents per pack avg.), Portugal and Spain, which will helped to offset weakness in Italy due to VAT increases. The Co. cited Poland’s volume (-7%) was impacted by the growth in e-vapor products.
After we get past more difficult comps in 2H of this year we’re bullish over the longer-term on Marlboro 2.0, the company’s architecture to modernize the brand, and with it expand into new population and smoker segments, catering towards trends of consumers seeking smoother tastes, even within the full-flavor category.
We’re positive on the company’s push to trade up consumers to the premium and above premium categories that enjoy higher margins with combustible cigarettes, and bullish on PM’s future portfolio of Risk Reduce Products to meet consumer trends shifting away from combustible. We believe PM can carry out its strategy over the longer term, leveraging strong marketing and sales teams across the globe, and leverage the growth in aspirational consumers seeking the strong brand identities of the PM portfolio.