BAT criticises UK taxes as it posts jump in profits

BRITISH American Tobacco (BAT) has warned that the UK’s tax regime is putting off some top foreign executives as it posted a sales and profit hike.

The company behind Dunhill, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall cigarettes announced a 17 per cent leap in annual sales to £14.2bn.

Profits for 2009 rose 15 per cent to £4.1bn, allowing it to raise its dividend by 19 per cent to 99.5p.

Chairman Richard Burrows reported that returns to shareholders in the past five years were 175 per cent, compared with an average of 35 per cent for the FTSE 100.

But he claimed the upcoming 50 per cent income tax for salaries of above £150,000 could hurt those results by keeping some of the best people away.

Director Michael Prideaux said: “As an international company we like to bring people in from big markets such as Brazil to work here for a spell.

“They have to pay a lot more tax if they are here and they don’t like it.”

And Burrows urged caution for the rest of the year.

He said: “There are signs that the global economy is beginning to improve, although unemployment, which is an important influence on our business, may continue to rise in developed markets.”