Imperial grows despite drop in cigarette sales

IMPERIAL Tobacco yesterday announced improved revenues, despite sales volumes falling as recession-hit Europeans reduce their tobacco consumption.

Price rises for its premium brands enabled net revenue to increase by three per cent for the nine months to the end of June, even though the amount of tobacco it sold fell by three per cent during the same period.

“I’m particularly pleased with the quality of the volume and revenue growth we’re achieving with our key strategic brands Davidoff, Gauloises Blondes, West and JPS which now account for almost a third of our total stick equivalent volumes,” said chief executive Alison Cooper.

The Bristol-based firm said it continues to invest in new packaging designs to attract customers but these may be hit by the UK government’s intention to enforce plain packaging on all tobacco products.

Volumes in Spain, the company’s third-biggest market, fell 11 per cent as a rise in the unemployment rate to one in four of the population forced consumers to cut back on cigarettes – sales of which tend to be relatively resistant to economic conditions.

Other areas for concern include Ukraine, where illicit sales mean market volumes are down 11 per cent and Poland, where the business for hand rolling tobacco dropped 37 per cent.

But there was some good news from Imperial’s niche divisions with sales of snus, a Swedish form of tobacco that is banned in the rest of the EU, up by 39 per cent in the last nine months and sales of Cuban cigars in emerging markets increasing by 10 per cent.