Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM) is preparing to report its 4Q2015 scorecard before markets open on Feb. 4, 2016. In the last four quarters in a row, the cigarette maker has surprised Wall Street with stronger than expected earnings. The question is: can Philip Morris maintain the trend in the coming report?
Potential growth drivers
In the quarters that Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM) has pleasantly surprised in its earnings report, the company has cited support from volume improvement and higher pricing. Product innovation and strong brand have also helped boost Philip Morris’ performance in the quarters.
The management of the company has always shown indication that it expected to continue making gains courtesy of the aforementioned factors. As such, Philip Morris is promising another earnings surprise in 4Q.
Potential growth challenges
As Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM) looks to boost sales and profits, the company also faces the growing pressure against tobacco smoking. The sale of tobacco products is being limited globally through higher taxes on tobacco products, which in turn trims profit margins for tobacco manufacturers.
Besides adverse regulatory environment for tobacco manufacturers, Philip Morris and its peers also face the threat of counterfeit products. Many low-cost international markets are flooded with cheaper imitations of premium cigarettes, a practice that is denting volumes and profits for genuine producers of such premium products.
For long-term growth, Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM) is in the process of expanding its portfolio of non-traditional tobacco products. For example, the company has an arrangement with Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO). As part of the agreement, Philip Morris will sell Altria’s e-cigarette called MarkTen to its international customers and Altria will in term sell Philip Morris’ tobacco products through its U.S. channels. The agreement between the two tobacco giants goes beyond selling each other’s products but also collaborating on a number of other issues, including regulatory issues.
Zack estimates 4Q EPS of $0.81 for Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM), but the firm also says that its analysts shows Philip Morris could miss expectations in the coming report, by possibly posting EPS of $0.80.