Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO) (previously named Philip Morris Companies Inc.) is based in Henrico County, Virginia, and is the parent company of Philip Morris USA, John Middleton, Inc., United States Smokeless Tobacco, Inc., Philip Morris Capital Corporation, and Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. It is one of the world's largest tobacco corporations. Philip Morris International was spun off in 2008. In addition, Altria Group, Inc. has a 28.7% economic and voting interest in one of the world's largest brewing companies, UK based SABMiller plc. It is a component of the S&P 500 and was a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average until February 19, 2008. The company has its headquarters in unincorporated Henrico County, Virginia, less than five miles West the city limit of Richmond and less than ten miles from its downtown Richmond buildings.
On January 27, 2003, Philip Morris Companies Inc. changed its name to Altria Group, Inc. On March 30, 2007, a spin out of Kraft Foods subsidiary (publicly traded since 2001) was concluded through distribution of the remaining stake of shares (88.1%) to Altria shareholders. As a result, Altria no longer holds any interest in Kraft Foods. On March 28, 2008 a similar spin out of Philip Morris International was completed with 100% of shares being distributed to Altria shareholders.
On January 6, 2009, Altria Group, Inc. completed the acquisition of UST Inc., a moist smokeless tobacco manufacturer; UST owned Ste Michelle Wine Estates, a wine company.
Altria is a relatively new company that clearly emerged out of Philip Morris although the strategic reasoning for the creation of this entity is a matter of speculation (the company webpage provides one explanation). The onset 'rebranding' of Philip Morris Companies to Altria took place in 2003 (Philip Morris would later split, with PM USA remaining Altria's primary and only consistently held asset). One explanation is that the company wished to emphasize that its business portfolio had come to consist of more than Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International; at the time, it owned an 84% stake in Kraft, although that business has since been spun off. The name "Altria" comes from the Latin word for "high" and was part of a trend of companies rebranding to names that previously did not exist, Accenture and Verizon being two other notable examples. The rebranding took place amidst social, legal and financially troubled circumstances. In 2003 Altria was ranked Fortune number 11, and has steadily declined since. In 2010 Altria Group (MO) ranked at Fortune number 137, whereas their former asset, Philip Morris International topped them with Fortune rank 94.
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