Shares of Altria Group Inc. MO, +1.34% rallied 1.5% in afternoon trade Wednesday, to bounce off the previous session’s 3 1/2-year closing low, after The Wall Street Journal reported that the cigarette seller was near a deal to take a 35% stake in e-cigarette startup Juul Labs Inc. The WSJ had earlier reported on the discussions. Citing people familiar with the matter, Wednesday’s WSJ report said the $12.8 billion deal could be announced as early as this week, and value Juul at roughly $38 billion. The report comes nearly two weeks after Altria agreed to take a $1.8 billion stake in Canada-based cannabis company Cronos Group Inc. CRON, -0.78% The report also comes about a month after Juul planned to stop selling most of its flavored nicotine liquids at retailers, as it faced a crackdown by the Food and Drug Administration on flavored pod-style e-cigarettes. Altria’s stock has tumbled 28% year to date, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.36% has slipped 4.0%.
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