CHICAGO – Altria Group Inc. (MO) has begun making preparations for a possible split-up of the company or other means of "maximizing shareholder value" when tobacco litigation hurdles are cleared, Chairman and Chief Executive Louis Camilleri (search) said Thursday.
Altria shares jumped more than 5 percent, while shares of its majority-owned foods business, Kraft Foods Inc. , rose almost 3 percent.
Camilleri did not give a specific time frame for any actions, but said that the company's Philip Morris tobacco (search) businesses are significantly undervalued when compared with their peers.
"It is therefore obvious that we are looking at a number of alternatives to maximize shareholder value, including the separation of the company into two, or potentially three, strong and independent entities," Camilleri said in a statement summarizing remarks prepared for an investor conference.
Kraft Foods (KFT) has struggled in recent months as consumers have eschewed foods like Oreo cookies amid concerns about growing obesity and the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets.
Some financial analysts have long said the company is likely to spin off Kraft after several tobacco lawsuits have been finally adjudicated.