BAT strikes it lucky as new chair sought

BRITISH American Tobacco (BAT) reported first-half pre-tax profits of &pound;2.12bn, up 16 per cent from &pound;1.84bn in the same period last year, as acquisitions boosted revenue.<br /><br />The maker of cigarette brands such as Lucky Strike and Dunhill enjoyed a 24 per cent surge in revenues from &pound;5.5bn to &pound;6.8bn, thanks in part to the purchases of Danish firm Skandinavisk Tobakskompagni and Turkey&rsquo;s Tekel last year.<br /><br />BAT&rsquo;s strong performance allowed the group to raise its interim dividend, to be paid on 29 September, by 26 per cent from 22.1p to 27.9p.<br /><br />The company said its four &ldquo;global drive brands&rdquo; had achieved overall volume growth of five per cent, with Pall Mall up 10 per cent, Lucky Strike up seven per cent, Dunhill rising eight per cent and Kent the only faller, down two per cent.<br /><br />Chairman Jan du Plessis said: &ldquo;Despite difficult economic and trading conditions in many countries, the continued market share growth from our global drive brands, our ability to innovate and our broad geographic spread should continue to stand us in very good stead.&rdquo;<br /><br />He added: &ldquo;These half-yearly results give us confidence that we are very much on track to deliver another year of strong earnings growth.&rdquo;<br /><br />He also pointed to last month&rsquo;s acquisition of Bentoel, Indonesia&rsquo;s fourth-largest cigarette maker, as a key opportunity to break into the country&rsquo;s large market for clove cigarettes.<br /><br />Du Plessis, who will stand down later this year to take up the chairmanship of mining giant Rio Tinto, said the search for a replacement was going well and that the company hoped to announce his successor in September.