Imperial Tobacco grows profits despite Spain weakness
Britain's Imperial Tobacco posted a 34-percent jump in half-year net profits on Tuesday as the maker of Lambert & Butler and Gauloises cigarettes looked past a weak Spanish market to grow overall sales.
Imperial added that it was immediately repurchasing some of its shares, worth a total of £500 million (569 million euros, $818 million), a move which saw its stock price rally 3.0 percent.
Imperial said in a statement that net profits rose 34 percent to £926 million in its first half.
Profit after tax for the six months to March 31 compared with net earnings of £689 million in 2009/10. Sales rose 3.0 percent to £3.289 billion.
"I'm pleased with how we are driving sales growth through our total tobacco portfolio across our international markets," Imperial Tobacco chief executive Alison Cooper said in the company's earnings statement.
"We've delivered good first half results with tobacco net revenues up three percent, earnings per share up seven percent and dividends increasing by 16 percent."
She added: "Our success translates into further dividend increases going forward and a £500 million annualised share buyback programme which is effective from today."
Cooper also noted that Spain remained a "difficult" market for the group as the country's smokers tightened their belts, although the weak performance was offset by "gains elsewhere in the EU" and "growth in emerging markets".
Looking ahead, Imperial said that it would "identify growth opportunities" in the second half of its financial year and manage costs.
Imperial's share price was up 3.0 percent at 2,222 pence in afternoon trade on London's benchmark FTSE 100 index, which was 1.16-percent higher at 6,011.38 points.
© 2011 AFP