Altria’s Profit Rises on Marlboro Prices, Snuff Demand

Altria Group Inc., the largest U.S. tobacco company, reported third-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates, helped by higher prices for Marlboro cigarettes online and snuff sales.

Net income rose 28 percent to $1.13 billion, or 54 cents a share, from $882 million, or 42 cents, a year earlier, the Richmond, Virginia-based maker of Copenhagen snuff said today in a statement. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had projected 52 cents, the average of 11 estimates..

Marlboro’s share increased 0.7 percentage point to 42.6 percent in the third quarter.

Marlboro’s share increased 0.7 percentage point to 42.6 percent in the third quarter.

Altria’s Philip Morris USA division raised prices by 8 cents a pack on all of its 18 cigarette brands in May after top- selling Marlboro gained smokers. Marlboro’s share increased 0.7 percentage point to 42.6 percent in the quarter while smokeless tobacco shipments rose 16 percent to 183.9 million cans.

Lower restructuring costs, including the closing of a cigarette factory in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, in 2009, also contributed to profit.

Shipments dropped 2.4 percent to 36.6 billion cigarettes, as higher prices and smoking bans have crimped demand. Marlboro’s volume slipped 0.3 percent to 31.8 billion cigarettes.

Altria raised its full-year forecast for per-share earnings by 2 cents to a range of $1.83 to $1.87 because of tax benefits. On an adjusted basis, it left unchanged its July forecast of $1.87 to $1.91, representing growth of 7 percent to 9 percent. Analysts project $1.89.

Altria advanced 17 cents to $24.92 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has climbed 27 percent this year, after advancing 30 percent in 2009.

source: bloomberg.com

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