updated 4/28/2005 10:30:55 AM ET 2005-04-28T14:30:55

Altria Group Inc., the tobacco company that also controls Kraft Foods Inc., is considering separating the company into two or three companies, its chairman told shareholders on Thursday. The company’s shares rose slightly early Thursday.

Chairman and CEO Louis C. Camilleri said “the precise timing and chronology are uncertain, and continuing improvement in the entire litigation environment is a prerequisite to such action by the board of directors.”

He said he was commenting on the possibility of “separating Altria into two, or potentially three, strong and independent entities.” He gave no further details.

Shareholders of Altria were again greeted by anti-tobacco protesters as they arrived for their annual meeting.

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