IMPERIAL Tobacco yesterday posted a 52 per cent jump in annual pre-tax profits and announced that its chief executive Gareth Davis, who has served the company for 37 years, is set to retire. <br /><br />He named chief operating officer Alison Cooper as his successor. <br /><br />Chairman Iain Napier said 59-year-old Davis had transformed Imperial from a business focused mainly on the UK into one of the world’s leading international tobacco firms.<br /><br />Imperial, the maker of Lambert & Butler, Gauloises and Davidoff cigarettes, yesterday said pre-tax profits climbed to £945m in the twelve months ending 30 <br /><br />September, from £621m the year before, buoyed by the integration of its “swift and efficient” Altadis takeover.<br /><br />The group said that the merger had so far delivered synergies of €190m (£170m), beating expectations.<br /><br />Imperial snapped up its Franco-Spanish rival for £15bn two years ago, bringing together the world’s number four and number five tobacco companies and giving it a number one position in the cigar market.<br /><br />The group yesterday reported a ten per cent jump in cigarette volumes mainly due to the boost from Altadis – and a 12 per cent lift in volumes of its Davidoff brand due to its international growth. <br /><br />The group said that it had been hit by the ravaged Spanish economy, although this was partly offset by consumers switching to its cheaper brands, while growth in emerging markets helped compensate for sluggish mature European markets.<br /><br />Imperial added that while markets were challenging it would reward shareholders with sustainable growth in the future.<br /><br />ALISON COOPER<br />INCOMING CHIEF EXECUTIVE IMPERIAL TOBACCO <br />Alison Cooper is set to be the youngest FTSE 100 female chief executive when she takes the helm of Britain’s largest tobacco company.<br /><br />Cooper, 43, has been at Imperial Tobacco for ten years and was in charge of the integration of rival Altadis.<br /><br />She describes herself as an “occasional smoker”. <br /><br />Cooper was widely tipped as Gareth Davis’ successor when he nominated her to the post of chief operating office in March. Married with two daughters, she joined the cigarette maker in 1999 from accountants Pricewaterhouse-Coopers after having worked with Davis and his team for several years. <br /><br />She became sales and marketing regional director for Imperial's Western Europe region in 2005 and, two years later, joined the four-strong Imperial executive board in a new role as corporate development director.<br /><br />Last year she received an annual pay package of £808,000.