Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) has not had a great 2014. The company has been facing numerous issues including volume pressures in secure markets and currency pressures. However, this has not stopped Philip Morris from rewarding its shareholders with a robust dividend and solid dividend growth. At current prices, Philip Morris yields north of 4.50%.
- Philip Morris launches its smokeless iQOS system in Italy and Japan.
- This device will use Marlboro HeatSticks, which heats tobacco rather than burning it.
- A pack of 20 Marlboro HeatSticks will sell inline with traditional cigarettes.
- I remain bullish Philip Morris due to its robust dividend yield and future growth prospects.
Philip Morris launches iQOS in Japan and Italy
iQOS, Philip Morris’ new smokeless device, has been launched at over 1,000 retail outlets in Nagoya, Japan. This battery-operated system will heat, without burning, small tubes of tobacco called Marlboro HeatSticks. The iQOS kit will sell for an estimate price of 6,980 yen ($59.31), while the Marlboro HeatSticks will sell for 460 yen ($3.91) for a pack of 20, inline with traditional Marlboros. Philip Morris noted that these products have an effective excise tax rate lower than traditional cigarettes which may lead to higher margins.
In Europe, the iQOS device was recently launched in Milan. The Marlboro HeatSticks will retail for the same price as Marlboro cigarettes, or about 5 euros ($6.28) for a pack of 20. However, the iQOS kit will sell for 70 euros ($87.87), due to higher taxes in that region. Philip Morris is optimistic that future legislation will result in lower taxes for these devices.
Do note that outside Italy and Japan, these products are expected to not be available until 2016 due to limited manufacturing capacity.
So far, the company has seen strong demand for iQOS, exceeding expectations. Philip Morris has launched these products without making and health claims, instead focusing marketing on product benefits, such as no fire or ash and less smell. Health claims, if any, are currently waiting the completion of scientific assessment in compliance with applicable regulations.
Philip Morris reaffirms 2014 guidance
On November 19, 2014, Philip Morris presented at the Morgan Stanley Global Consumer & Retail conference. At this event, the company reaffirmed its 2014 EPS guidance of $4.76 to $4.81 versus $5.26 last year. This includes a $0.72 per share currency impact and a $0.25 per share asset impairment charge related to discontinue cigarette production in high cost regions. Furthermore, the company noted that its currency-neutral adjusted EPS represents a 6.5% to 7.5% growth rate versus $5.40 last year.
As for the difference between the two numbers, Philip Morris cited the strength of the dollar significant headwind for EPS in 2014. The company noted that Japan has been the single biggest drag on its EPS growth rate despite hedging its Yen exposure. In addition, Philip Morris noted that its Philippines volumes remain under pressure due to one principal competitor openly flaunting excise tax legislation.
2015 guidance expected by February
Looking forward in 2015, Philip Morris noted that it expects, on a currency-neutral basis, its growth rate to range from 4% to 6% for net revenues, 6% to 8% for adjusted operating companies income, and 8% to 10% for adjusted EPS. For the full year, the company anticipates its unfavorable currency impact would be around $0.60 per share at prevailing exchange rates. Philip Morris will provide its FY 2015 EPS forecast in February.
Overall, these are all positive developments for Philip Morris. iQOS and Marlboro HeatSticks are extremely interesting products and mark the company’s first foray into the fast growing e-cigarette market. Furthermore, it appears 2015 will see very robust currency adjusted growth with the currency impact of $0.60 per share lower than the 2014 level.