Big brands help Imperial profits beat estimates

City A.M. Reporter
IMPERIAL Tobacco, the world’s fourth largest cigarette group, reported an eight per cent rise in annual earnings yesterday, helped by strong revenue growth from its key brands.

The British firm, which sells over 340bn cigarettes annually of brands such as Davidoff, Gauloises, JPS and West, said adjusted earnings rose to 201p a share for the year to end-September, ahead of a company-compiled consensus of 199.6p.

It raised the annual dividend by 11 per cent to 105.6p a share, boosting its payout ratio from earnings to 52.5 per cent.

Revenue rose four per cent to £7bn, however, reflecting the group’s aim to counter Europe’s downturn by offering economy-brand cigarettes, such as JPS, Lambert & Butler and roll-your-own products, while also raising prices for more affluent consumers in western Europe and the US.

“We see significant growth opportunities in our rest of the world region across Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East and Asia-Pacific and we'll continue to invest to support sustainable growth,” the firm said.

Overall stick equivalent volumes declined 2.7 per cent in the period due to tough markets in Poland, Ukraine and compliance with international trade sanctions against Syria.

Its four key brands -- upmarket Davidoff, mid-priced Gauloises Blondes and value brands West and JPS -- saw annual volumes increase seven per cent. Its Gold Leaf and Golden Virginia fine cut business volumes were stable, it added.