Upbeat Imps Tobacco beats the recession

Steve Dinneen
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Imperial Tobacco, the world’s fourth-biggest cigarette maker, said yesterday it had made a good start to its new financial year with trading in line with its forecasts despite weak economies.

Imperial, with cigarette brands including Lambert & Butler, West and Gauloises, was reporting on its first-quarter trading from October to December 2009 within its current financial year to the end of September 2010.

Chief executive Gareth Davis said: “We have made a good start to the year with trading in line with our expectations despite the weak economic environment.”

Davis is set to retire as group chief executive in May and will be replaced by his number two, Alison Cooper, in a move confirmed last November. Davis and Cooper worked on Imperial’s deal to acquire Franco-Spanish Altadis in January 2008 which added the Gauloises brand.

Imperial is the number two cigarette maker in Europe after Philip Morris International, with number one positions in Britain and Spain and second in Germany and France.

Despite the downturn, smoking has again proved resilient to recession and Imperial has been able to raise cigarette prices in Britain, Spain and France since last September.

In Britain, Imperial said the overall 2009 duty-paid cigarette market rose one per cent to 45.5bn cigarettes, and its share was largely unchanged at 45.2 per cent in the year to December compared with 45.3 per cent in the year to
September. In Germany, market volumes declined by two per cent to 85.5bn cigarettes in 2009 with the group’s market share largely steady at 27.1 per cent, while in a Spanish market which fell by 10 per cent to 80.7bn cigarettes in 2009 the group’s market share was 30.1 per cent.