PHILIP Morris, one of the world’s biggest tobacco groups, said yesterday that its profits for the first quarter had risen 13 per cent, boosted by a rise in prices.
The company, which makes cigarettes including the Marlboro and Benson & Hedges brands, reported net income of $2.16bn (£1.35bn) for the three months to 31 March, on total revenues that rose 9.7 per cent to $7.4bn.
Chairman and chief executive Louis Camilleri said the group had seen strong momentum at the start of 2012, with the best organic growth in volume since it was spun off from holiday company Altria Group in March 2008.
But despite the upbeat news, Philip Morris still cut its earnings guidance for the full year, to account for a strengthening in the US dollar.
Cigarette shipments grew by 5.4 per cent over the period, with falling growth in the EU offset by strong demand in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Latin America.
Price rises added an extra $369m to sales, which were also boosted by the acquisition of Philippines company Fortune Tobacco in February 2010.
Philip Morris has been a vocal opponent of initiatives in Australia and the UK to introduce new rules on plain packaging for cigarettes, which health groups claim will discourage youngsters from taking up smoking.
Along with the other big tobacco groups – British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International – the company is fighting a case in the Australian high court to stop the packaging being introduced.