Altria's big bet on Juul is going horribly wrong
Altria's $12.8 billion investment for a 35% stake in Juul is at risk of becoming one of the worst corporate investments of all time.
Driving the news: So far, vaping is suspected or confirmed as the cause of death for 8 people and 530 cases of pulmonary illness across 38 states, the CDC said, with a federal official saying that a criminal probe has begun.
Sens. Mitt Romney and Jeff Merkley proposed a bill late Thursday that would:
- Ban e-cigarette flavors other than tobacco.
- Create new design standards for e-cigarettes.
- Apply existing tobacco taxes to e-cigarettes.
- Urge the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee a campaign about the health risks of e-cigarettes.
- Make it more difficult to refill vape cartridges with home-made tobacco pods.
"With nearly a quarter of high school students vaping regularly, we must take decisive action to prevent a new generation from addiction and serious health risks," Romney said.
Between the lines: "Sometimes it's darkest before the light, but right now it looks like Altria got smoked," Axios' Dan Primack writes.
The big picture: Juul keeps getting hit left and right — particularly after the recent spate of vaping-related lung diseases. The company is also facing a possible congressional subpoena after failing to provide documents in July.
- Last week, President Trump proposed banning all flavored vaping pods from the U.S. market, including mint and menthol.
- Earlier this week, Juul products disappeared from Chinese e-commerce sites JD.com and Alibaba's Tmall.com, without explanation.
- India banned e-cigarettes entirely.
In the market: Altria's stock has been falling for much of this year and has been on a clear downward path over the past 6 months.
- The recent blowback against e-cigarettes has sent shares down another 8% in just the past week.
Go deeper: The global anti-vaping tipping point