Altria Group keeps revenue, profit steady

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Altria Group Inc. reported a 3.7 percent increase in profit in the first quarter as the Richmond-based company increased its market share and cut expenses.

The tobacco manufacturer increased its first-quarter profit 3.8 percent to $973 million, or 48 cents per diluted share, compared with $937 million, or 45 cents per diluted share, during the first quarter of 2012.

Revenues remained steady in the first quarter, up 0.1 percent to $5.65 billion.

Altria made up for a 2.6 percent decline in cigarette volume during the first quarter with higher prices and better retail share for its smokeable products. During the quarter, the company introduced Marlboro Black, which increased the brand’s retail share point to 42.3 percent, 0.1 points higher than the first quarter of 2011 but 0.7 points higher than its share from the fourth quarter of 2011.

“Our tobacco companies are pursuing initiatives to build their premium brands for the long-term. PM USA supported Marlboro’s new brand architecture with brand-building initiatives, which helped drive Marlboro’s year-over-year and sequential retail share increases,” outgoing Chairman and CEO Michael Szymanczyk said in a statement. “New products introduced over the past few years by USSTC helped drive Copenhagen and Skoal’s combined performance and contributed to the smokeless products segment’s strong first-quarter results.”

Revenues for the company’s smokeless tobacco products remained even at $353 million when excise taxes were excluded. The segment made up for a 7.5 percent decrease in shipment volume with higher prices.

The company says it is on track to reduce its annual expenses by $400 million per year by 2013

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