) to outperform from neutral.
On Wednesday, an appeals court reversed a $145 billion judgement against tobacco companies. Analyst Andrew Conway says the litigation pressure will continue to abate over the next 12-18 months. He thinks the decision reinforced the inappropriateness of certifying class action in a smoking case, and awarding punitive damages without the finding of liability.
Conway believes the market could reduce Altria's implied litigation liability by 30%-40%, or $5-$7 a share, over the next year. He sees minimal fundamental risk on the stock over the next several quarters. He also sees $4.60 2003 EPS, and $5.02 for 2004. He raised his $32 target to $45.