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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Sometimes corporate marriages just don’t work. Today the Board of Directors of Altria Group will ponder that possibility. Altria is the parent company of Kraft Foods and cigarette-maker Philip Morris. There’s a growing feeling among shareholders that the two companies should be separated. Janet Babin tells us why.
JANET BABIN: Kraft’s cream cheese may go well on its Ritz Crackers, but many investors don’t think the company goes well with its corporate sibling Philip Morris.
They say the threat of more tobacco lawsuits makes Kraft stock unattractive to other potential investors. Gregg Warren is an analyst with market research firm Morningstar:
GREGG WARREN:“As long as Kraft is part of that conglomeration, any sort of tobacco litigation issues or tobacco settlements that have to be paid out are going to impact the firm as a whole.”
Philip Morris spends several billion dollars each year paying off a major tobacco settlement with the Federal government. And Altria spends an additional $500 million on other tobacco litigation.
While Warren says a breakup is part of Altria’s game plan, he doesn’t expect it to come today.
He says if Kraft were to spin off now, Altria could be accused of purposely moving assets to Kraft to keep them out of any new tobacco settlement.
I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.
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