Get your money out of orange mac ‘n’ cheese and into cigarettes, pronto: Food and tobacco giant Altria Group announced last week that it’s ditching its shares of struggling Kraft Foods, and analysts say Altria’s stock will soar now that it can focus on expanding its main holding, the Philip Morris tobacco company. (Maybe it’s time to take a cue from the French and smoke instead of eat.)
According to MarketWatch, the spinoff of Kraft, set for March 30, “will create the biggest stand-alone food company in the U.S. (and the second largest in the world after Nestle).”
But wait a minute—being big and independent should be a good thing for Kraft, right? And didn’t these stock watchers see Thank You for Smoking? Tobacco can’t win in our health-conscious society, people! As writer William Spain explains,
In theory, at least in the U.S., Kraft should have superior prospects. After all, cigarette volumes are declining as more American smokers quit or die each year even as they continue to gobble down food at an ever-increasing rate. But even though it is selling fewer smokes, Altria’s Philip Morris USA continues to build market share while squeezing higher profits out of each puff. At the same time, key Kraft brands are losing market share to private labels even as the company struggles with higher commodity prices.
Aaah, yes—nobody wants Kraft mac anymore, now that “all-natural” Annie’s is in town. The solution, some analysts say, will be for Kraft to tighten its international strategy and “[shed] businesses to focus on core categories such as biscuits, cheese, coffee and refrigerated beverages.” The still-enormous food company is likely to ditch 10 holdings, including Post cereals, Planters Nuts, and Jell-O desserts.
What will happen if these brands become indies? Oscar Mayer meats and Cool Whip at the farmers’ market—duh.