Altria is expected to tell investors on Wednesday exactly when it will spin off Philip Morris International, a plan that will separate its domestic and international tobacco operations.
Lausanne, Switzerland-based Philip Morris International makes Marlboro, L&M and Bond Street cigarettes, while Philip Morris USA makes the Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Parliament and Basic brands for U.S. consumers.
The board of New York-based Altria Group Inc. had approved the spinoff last August but said it would finalize its decision and give the exact timing of the spinoff at its board meeting on Jan. 30.
The plan for PMI is part of a multiyear restructuring that started with the spin off of Altria's majority stake in Kraft Foods Inc. in March of last year.
When Philip Morris International is spun off, Altria will consist mainly of Philip Morris USA and a 28.6 percent stake in beer company SABMiller, which makes Miller Genuine Draft, Pilsner Urquell and Snow.
Philip Morris USA bought cigar maker John Middleton Inc. in December as part of a strategy to make the company less dependent on cigarettes, especially as it loses its link to fast-growing Philip Morris International.
On Wednesday, it also reports its financial results for the fourth quarter and all of 2007.
For the fourth quarter, analysts polled by Thomson Financial expect earnings per share of 97 cents and revenue of $9.19 billion, and for the full year, the consensus estimate is that Altria will have earned $4.36 a share and revenue of $37.94 billion.
Goldman Sachs' Judy Hong expects a favorable currency benefit for Altria for the fourth quarter. She predicted the industry's overall earnings could rise 9 percent in the quarter, with price hikes and cost cutting boosting earnings. Hong predicted those forces should offset a decline in cigarette consumption, which was reported by Information Resources Inc. to have fallen by a steep 6.8 percent in the five weeks ending Dec. 30.
Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Greenberg told investors the spinoff had four potential ways of increasing value: share repurchases, dividend increases, cost savings and a potential boost in the share price.
As part of its restructuring plan, Altria will move its headquarters to join Philip Morris USA's office in Richmond, Va., from its Park Avenue tower in Manhattan. It has also opened a research center in Richmond and said it would consolidate U.S. manufacturing.
Altria shares rose $1.06, or 1.4 percent, to $75.01 Monday. They have traded in a 52-week range of $60.91 to $79.59.