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Sarah Halzack

With Juul, Altria Got More Than It Bargained For

The tobacco giant thought it was future-proofing its business, but that turns out to be harder than it looks.

Not selling out.

Not selling out.

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

Altria Group Inc.’s investment in e-cigarette upstart Juul Labs Inc., announced last December, was meant as a $12.8 billion statement that the maker of Marlboros was future-proofing its business. But two announcements on Wednesday make clear that the Juul investment has not made the tobacco giant’s future any less hazy — and, in fact, may have made it even more so.

Altria and Philip Morris International Inc. said that they have called off merger talks that would have reunited two businesses that were once part of a single corporation and today sell the same products in different markets. (Altria is focused on the U.S. market and Philip Morris on international ones.)