“Looking more broadly at the e-vapor category, we continue to believe that the current state of the market is intolerable for both legitimate manufacturers and consumers.” - William Gifford, Altria CEO, Q4 2023 Call
When a CEO boldly describes market conditions as intolerable, one would expect it to be harshly reflected in both broad sentiment as well as reported financials. Altria continues to face a mix of unsavory headwinds led by the rapid proliferation of illicit disposable vaping devices, and to many, the company’s efforts to develop and market its own next-gen products appear underwhelming. The loudest critics continue their narrow fixation on unit volumes, namely of the company’s primary product, cigarettes. This preoccupation avoids addressing fundamentally important considerations, such as the costs to produce and sell products, as well as the prices that can be fetched. Likewise, there remains too little attention provided to the company’s non-cigarette operations. While smaller, they are not trivial, and, as a whole, the company continues to show supernormal profitability.