updated 10/23/2008 8:25:50 AM ET 2008-10-23T12:25:50

Altria Group said Thursday its third-quarter profit fell 67 percent from a year ago, when results included the Philip Morris International business.

Altria Group Inc., owner of No. 1 U.S. cigarette maker Philip Morris USA, said net income was $867 million, or 42 cents per share, compared with $2.63 billion, or $1.24 per share, a year earlier. Philip Morris sells Marlboros in the U.S.

The company, which spun off the international business in March, said earnings from continuing operations rose 15 percent. It also confirmed its full-year profit forecast.

Altria Group Inc., based in Richmond, Va., said revenue rose 5 percent to $5.24 billion.

Excluding one-time costs, Altria said its per-share profit from continuing operations was 46 cents per share, beating Wall Street’s consensus estimate by 2 cents.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, who typically exclude one-time costs, expected earnings of 44 cents per share on revenue of $4.21 billion.

The tobacco company reaffirmed its 2008 profit forecast of $1.63 to $1.67, which represents growth of 9 percent to 11 percent.

And it announced its proposed $10.4 billion acquisition of smokeless tobacco company UST Inc., maker of Copenhagen and Skoal, had passed antitrust review. It expects the deal to close in the first week of January.

Altria said its third-quarter results also reflected lower earnings from its stake in beer maker SABMiller, losses at Philip Morris Capital Corp. and higher taxes. These were offset by strong operating income from Philip Morris USA and John Middleton Co., the company’s recently acquired cigar business.

Altria, like other U.S. tobacco companies, is focusing on cigarette alternatives — such as cigars, snuff and chewing tobacco — for future sales growth as domestic consumption declines between 3 percent to 4 percent a year.

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