A person smokes a Juul Labs Inc. e-cigarette in this arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn Borough of New York, U.S. (Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)

Juul Expects Skyrocketing Sales of $3.4 Billion, Despite Flavored Vape Restrictions

(Bloomberg) -- Juul Labs Inc.’s move to stop selling most flavored e-cigarettes in U.S. stores dealt a blow to the company’s financial results last quarter, but the maker of America’s most popular e-cigarette device sees it as a minor setback. Juul forecasts revenue of $3.4 billion for 2019, almost triple what it generated last year, according to a person who was briefed on the numbers.

The financial outlook indicates high expectations from the company to sell more of its slender Juul vaping devices and accompanying nicotine pods overseas. It also suggests confidence that other governments won’t follow the U.S. in cracking down on the products, a move prompted by widespread use by teens across the country.

Juul posted fourth-quarter revenue of $424 million, a 2.5 percent decline from the previous quarter, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Over the same periods, Juul’s adjusted loss was $70.4 million, compared with a $17 million profit in the prior quarter.

Juul Expects Skyrocketing Sales of $3.4 Billion, Despite Flavored Vape Restrictions

According to the person briefed on the report, Juul told investors the numbers last quarter would have been lower if not for overseas gains. International revenue helped offset U.S. shortfalls after the company  stopped selling some nicotine products in November, in anticipation of Food and Drug Administration restrictions on fruit and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes. The increased FDA scrutiny was intended to curb underage e-cigarette adoption. 

Juul has said it mainly promotes its products to smokers looking to quit and that it never intended for kids to use them. It took steps last year to reduce youth adoption, including the removal of Juul social media accounts. The company declined to comment on the investor briefing.

The financial results, which haven’t been previously reported, help explain why American tobacco giant Altria Group Inc. paid a hefty premium for Juul stock in December. Altria, which sells Marlboro cigarettes in the U.S., acquired a 35 percent stake in Juul and valued the vaping business at $38 billion. That made the San Francisco-based company one of the world’s most valuable startups and turned the two founders into billionaires.

Juul Expects Skyrocketing Sales of $3.4 Billion, Despite Flavored Vape Restrictions

On a conference call last month to discuss Altria’s quarterly earnings report, four-fifths of analysts’ questions focused on the Juul investment. Howard Willard, Altria’s chief executive officer, said they would probably get a closer look at the privately held company’s financial performance later this year if the deal is approved by regulators. “We are excited about Juul’s domestic growth and international prospects,” Willard said. “Juul’s 2018 growth was quite remarkable.”

Altria told analysts that Juul generated about $200 million in 2017. The person briefed on the latest results told Bloomberg that Juul’s 2018 revenue was $1.3 billion and that it made a profit of $12.4 million. Juul anticipates 26 percent of sales will come from international customers by the end of this year. It expects 2019 sales growth of about 160 percent. Meanwhile, Altria’s annual growth rate has been less than 1 percent for the last two years.

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