The decline in number of smokers in the U.S hasn’t stopped leading tobacco companies to maintain their high profit margins. Furthermore, some companies such as Lorillard Inc. (NYSE:LO) were able to show growth in revenues as e-cigarette market continues to rise. Let’s take a closer look at two tobacco companies Lorillard Inc. (NYSE:LO) and Reynolds American, Inc. (NYSE:RAI) worth owning.
Year to date, shares of several leading tobacco companies including Lorillard and Reynolds American, Inc. (NYSE:RAI) have slightly outperformed the stock markets: Shares of Lorillard rose by 17.7%; Reynolds American, Inc. (NYSE:RAI)’ shares increased by 21.2%. In comparison, the S&P500 index rose by 15.8%. Reynolds’s rise came despite the company’s drop in revenues: Net sales fell by 2.6% during the first quarter of 2013 (year over year). Moreover, the drop in sales was mainly due to the 8.7% decline in volume of cigarettes sold during the quarter. Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO) wasn’t any different as its revenues slipped by 2.1% in the first quarter.
On the other hand, Lorillard Inc. (NYSE:LO)’s revenues rose by 3.3% during the quarter. The rise in sales was mainly due to the increase in E-cigarette sales. Lorillard’s decline in units sold wasn’t as steep as Reynolds American, Inc. (NYSE:RAI)’s.
The rise of the e-cigarette is among the driving forces in these days for tobacco companies. Moreover, this business segment allows tobacco companies to spend funds on advertising this product, which is not banned from main advertising media as regular cigarettes are. During 2012, television ads of e-cigarette rose by nearly 18% (year-over-year). This trend is likely to persist in the coming years, which will allow tobacco companies to expand their business in this segment. One major player in this segment is Lorillard Inc. (NYSE:LO)’s subsidiary, Blu eCigs. Lorillard’s revenues continue to sharply rise in this segment: In the first quarter of 2013, revenues of electronic cigarettes rose by more than 46% compared to the last quarter of 2012.
Electronic cigarettes sales still account for a minuscule amount of Lorillard’s total revenues, but this could change with the rise in the company’s spending on advertising. Further, this segment is less profitable than regular cigarettes. Therefore, as Lorillard expands its electronic cigarettes business, the company’s profit margin is likely to dwindle. Other tobacco companies are also entering this business segment: Reynolds Vapor, a subsidiary of Reynolds American, Inc. (NYSE:RAI), is in the process of augmenting its Vuse distribution to compete with Lorillard Inc. (NYSE:LO) on the electronic cigarettes market shares. The latest news is that Reynolds Vapor will reach retail outlets in Colorado. Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO) is expected to come out with its e-cigarette brand in August.
Despite the drop in revenues, the profit margins of Lorillard and Reynolds American, Inc. (NYSE:RAI) rose during the past several quarters and reached by the first quarter of 2013, 35.5% and 47.1%, respectively. On the other hand, Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO)’s profit margins dwindled to 25%. The high profits margins of these companies are likely to keep the dividend payments high.
Dividend and Buyback
The main advantage of leading tobacco companies is their high dividend payment. Lorillard Inc. (NYSE:LO)’s current yearly dividend stands at $2.20 per share, which comes to an annual yield of 4.8%. Moreover, Lorillard recently announced the company has doubled its stock repurchase program to $1 billion. At the same time, the company announced it will raise $500 million in senior notes. This switch of stocks for debt will lower the company’s financial expenses considering the currently low interest rates. This move will also benefit shareholders.