Altria to Increase Prices on Cigarette Brands

Altria Group Inc., the largest U.S. tobacco company, plans to raise prices on all 18 of its cigarette brands after top-selling Marlboro gained smokers in the first quarter.

Altria’s Philip Morris USA division will charge wholesalers 8 cents a pack more for Marlboro, Virginia Slims and other brands, David Sylvia, a spokesman for the Richmond, Virginia- based company, said yesterday in an e-mail. The increase will begin May 10. The company won’t explain why it’s raising prices, the first increase since October, Sylvia said.

The higher prices are within “the normal range” expected this year, Thilo Wrede, an analyst for Credit Suisse in New York, wrote in a note to clients yesterday. He rates Altria shares “neutral.”

Marlboro shipments rose 1.6 percent to 29.6 billion cigarettes last quarter, while the brand increased its U.S. market share by 0.3 percentage point to a record 42.7 percent, Altria said April 21. Its overall cigarette market share slipped 0.7 point to 50.2 percent.

The average Marlboer cigarettes in convenience stores was $5.42 in the first quarter, Sylvia said.

Altria declined 47 cents to $20.75 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have advanced 5.7 percent this year.


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