Imperial Brands PLC (LON:IMB) shares puffed slightly higher on Wednesday after analysts at RBC Capital Markets upgraded the shares as they felt the tobacco giant has “taken steps to restore credibility with investors”.
Analysts at the Canadian bank lifted their rating to ‘sector perform’ from ‘underperform’, lifting their target price to 1,800p from 1,600p.
Having recently felt that Imperial Brands had "limited options" to reverse its decline but had "scope to improve its credibility with investors", RBC's analysts welcomed management's decision to set guidance for 2020 "at what we regard as a realistic level" in contrast to previous years.
Likewise they admired the decision to exclude disposal profits, pension credits and asset revaluations from ‘adjusted’ EBIT, as well as the promise to find the most appropriate way to consider how to treat restructuring after 2020.
"The one thing we were looking for that hasn’t happened is a dividend reset."
The analysts said they remain "very wary about the medium-long term prospects for the tobacco industry in general", given the direction of vaping regulation remains unclear globally despite formal guidance disclosed by the US FDA.
Wariness of Imperial Brands is elevated given underwhelming results from its vaping business, which culminated in last September’s sales warning.
Having said that, the analysts think that the share price "sensibly captures our expectation of subdued revenue growth and declining margins for the foreseeable future" and updating their currency assumptions as well as lower capital expenditure assumptions, led to the higher value-derived target price and rating.