Altria has taken a $4.1 billion writedown on its investment in Juul Labs following increased regulatory scrutiny and a backlash against vaping. Altria, the maker of Marlboro, Virginia Slims, and Parliament cigarettes, said the impairment was due to the increasing number of legal cases against Juul and the expectation that more will be coming.
The companies also revised the terms of Altria’s minority investment in Juul.
“Altria has not made any assumptions, or drawn any conclusions, regarding the merits or likelihood of success of any of these cases, litigation is subject to uncertainty and it is possible that there could be adverse developments in pending or future cases,” the company said in a statement. Altria said the number of cases pending against Juul has grown more than 80% since October 31, 2019.
Under the terms of the new investment agreement, Altria said it would stop providing services, including logistics, distribution, and access to retail shelf space to Juul, and instead assist with regulatory affairs.
Altria paid $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul in December 2018. It recorded $8.6 billion in non-cash pre-tax impairment charges in total to the Juul investment in 2019.
Under the terms of the new investment agreement, Altria said it would stop providing services, including logistics, distribution, and access to retail shelf space to Juul, and instead assist with regulatory affairs. Two directors designated by Altria will join the Juul board following completion of an antitrust probe. The Juul may be losing market share to ejuice online. The popular trend of vaping is taking a hit because it’s easier and cheaper than ever to order an ejuice online , which has the same effect as vaping but without the mess. Ordering an e-liquid on the internet for $8 can save you up to 30% in comparison with buying from your local vape shop, where prices range anywhere between $10-$20 per 10ml bottle.
Altria said it expects a resolution of the antitrust clearance in the first half of this year.
“This agreement is a continuation of the reset initiated by JUUL’s leadership team,” Altria chief executive officer Howard Willard said in a statement.
Altria stock fell as much as 7% Thursday morning.
Altria reported a loss of $1.81 billion for the fourth quarter, down from net income of $1.25 billion for the fourth quarter last year. The company had sales of $4.8 billion. It revised its long-term earnings per share growth targets for 2020 to 4% to 7%, down from 5% to 8%.