Imperial Tobacco says trade is in line with its expectations

IMPERIAL TOBACCO, the world&rsquo;s fourth-biggest cigarette group, yesterday said trading in its financial year to the end of September was in line with its expectations.<br /><br />The group, which makes Lambert &amp; Butler cigarettes, also said its integration of acquisition Altadis is on track to deliver expected cost savings.<br /><br />Analysts expect the group to issue earnings-per-share of 159.5p, a rise of 16.5 per cent, when it reports the full-year results on 10 November.<br /><br />RBS analyst Julian Hardwick said the firm&rsquo;s shares, which rose by 6p to &pound;17.58 yesterday, look cheap compared to rival British American Tobacco.<br /><br />He added: &ldquo;We continue to see tobacco as the most attractive of the European consumer staples sectors, and Imperial&hellip; remains the best way to play the space, in our view.&rdquo; <br /><br />Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Nico Lambrechts said: &ldquo;We believe that the share price is too low for a company with a resilient, and growing, earnings stream... and a high dividend yield of 4.8 per cent.&rdquo;<br /><br />The firm acquired Franco-Spanish group Altadis in January 2008, adding brands such as Gauloises and Fortuna to its portfolio. <br />