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Altria boosts profit, expects tough 2010

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Altria Group Inc. reported Thursday that its profit grew 6.9 percent to $726 million during the fourth quarter as operating income grew across its traditional business segments and the company integrated UST into its earnings.

The company boosted its revenue from the integration of smokeless tobacco company UST in 2009. Revenues for Altria’s smokeless tobacco unit were $1.3 billion, not including federal excise taxes, during the fourth quarter. Shipment volumes increased 3.6 percent during the fourth quarter, boosted by the introduction of Copenhagen Longcut Wintergreen product.

Altria’s cigar segment sales grew 6.2 percent to $86 million from $81 million during the fourth quarter (not including excise taxes) over the same quarter the previous year.

Altria’s cigarette volumes fell 12.2 percent for year, partially driven by the federal excise tax and an increase in promotions from other cigarette brands. The operating income from Altria’s cigarette units increased 3.9 percent, primarily from higher list prices and lower expenses.

Altria said 2010 could be challenging as many consumers are still unemployed. In addition, the company expects that some states with turn to an increase in tobacco tax to help crippling budgets.


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