Imperial Tobacco profit more than doubles

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Britain's Imperial Tobacco, maker of Lambert & Butler and Gauloises cigarettes, announced Tuesday that annual net profits more than doubled, driven by both mature and emerging markets.

Earnings after tax soared 126 percent to 1.51 billion pounds (1.72 billion euros, 2.41 billion dollars) in the 12 months to September from 663 million pounds in Imperial's previous 2008/2009 fiscal year.

Revenues rose six percent to 28.17 billion pounds, the group said in a results statement, but added that volumes fell 4.2 percent to 308.7 billion cigarettes at the world's fourth-biggest tobacco firm.

"This strong set of results demonstrates the success of our strategy and the versatility of our total tobacco portfolio," chief executive Alison Cooper said in the statement.

"We delivered some excellent brand and product performances in both mature and emerging markets, including further gains from our global strategic cigarette brands Davidoff, Gauloises Blondes and West.

"This was complemented by growth from a number of regional and local brands, particularly JPS which continues to go from strength to strength.

"We also delivered another very strong fine cut tobacco performance, growing our volumes by almost nine percent."

Imperial, which bought French-Spanish firm Altadis for some 19 billion dollars in 2008, said its strategy was to build its position in the world's major growth markets.

"Our investment priorities target eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia to further build our position in emerging markets," it said.

Imperial shares rose 1.24 percent to 2,042 pence in early afternoon trade, in line with broader gains on the London stock market.

"Today's results reflect the defensive and highly cash generative nature of the business," said analyst Jonathan Jackson at brokerage Killik & Co.

© 2010 AFP

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