If you liked Altria before the spinoffs, hang on

Q: After Altria mo spins off Philip Morris, what happens to my Altria stock? Should I keep investing in these separate companies?

A: Altria's plodding plan to shed its various units has reached a new level.

The company recently told investors that it plans to spin off its international Philip Morris tobacco unit. The move, according to the company, is designed to let Philip Morris' international business act with more autonomy and outside the regulatory issues faced by the U.S. tobacco business. You can read about the announcement here and here.

The spinoff of Philip Morris International is just the latest move by Altria to streamline its operations. Most recently, the company spun off its majority stake in Kraft Foods. After the international Philip Morris unit is gone, Altria will be left running Philip Morris USA, Philip Morris Capital and holding roughly a third of brewing giant SABMiller.

The timing of the spinoff of Philip Morris International won't be announced until early next year. But when it does happen, most likely, you'll be given shares of the new company in proportion to how many shares of Altria you own on a certain date. Most likely, Altria shares will then fall in value commensurate with the value of the international arm of Philip Morris.

If you're a longtime investor in Altria, you have several options. You could hold onto your shares of Altria, Kraft and Philip Morris International. Doing this would give you the same market play you had owning Altria before the spinoffs. If there are parts of the combined Altria you wanted more or less exposure to, you can sell your shares accordingly.

Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at mkrantz@usatoday.com.

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