Altria profits rises 38 percent

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Altria Group Inc. reported a 38 percent increase in profit during the first quarter with a boost from its smokeless tobacco acquisition.

Altria said its first-quarter revenues were $813 million, compared with $589 million last year.

The company’s profit also soared because of its cigarette, smokeless tobacco and wine products. The company’s cigar and financial services divisions were down compared to the first quarter of 2009.

Cigarette revenues increased 5.5 percent when money collected from the new federal excise tax is excluded. The increase in revenues came primarily from higher prices.

The tax did take its toll on cigarette shipping volume. Altria’s total cigarette shipment volume was down 10 percent in the first quarter, but the Marlboro brand reached a milestone, recording its highest market share ever at 42.7 percent.

The segment’s operating income, which excludes corporate expenses and amortization of intangible assets, was up 7.6 percent, mostly from higher list prices and lower implementation and exit costs.

Revenues of smokeless tobacco products grew 27.9 percent to $381 million. Operating income was $178 million compared with a $2 million loss last year because of lower UST integration and acquisition costs.

Altria’s wine segment sales grew 26.7 percent during the quarter, primarily due to an increase in popularity of Chateau St. Michelle wines.

Revenues in the company’s cigar division were down 12.1 percent, when excluding federal excise tax. Altria attributed this to the federal excise tax.

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