Altria Group Inc. said on Thursday strength in its Philip Morris International tobacco business helped lift first-quarter earnings, excluding the recently spun off Kraft Foods Inc. and a tax-related benefit last year.
The company’s Philip Morris USA business, meanwhile, shipped fewer cigarettes, which the company blamed in part on weakness in the entire industry.
Altria, which spun off Kraft at the end of the quarter, said profit from continuing operations was $1.03 a share, excluding Kraft and other special items, compared with 98 cents a year earlier.
Analysts on average had forecast $1.06 a share, according to Reuters Estimates.
Net income, which includes Kraft, fell 20.9 percent to $2.75 billion, while net earnings per share fell 21.2 percent to $1.30. Altria had a benefit of 30 cents per share from the reversal of tax reserves following an Internal Revenue Service review of tax returns from 1996 to 1999.
Sales rose 8.2 percent to $17.56 billion.
Excluding excise taxes, sales were $9.04 billion. On that basis, analysts had forecast $9.17 billion.
The Philip Morris International unit benefited from price increases in some markets and also from the weaker dollar, which increases the dollar value of sales overseas.
Altria’s Philip Morris USA unit saw shipments fall after raising prices by 10 cents a pack on December 18, though the company said shipments improved in March.
Altria shares closed at $70.08 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average, is up 2.7 percent since the Kraft spin-off, compared with a 3.4 percent increase for the blue chip index.
The stock trades at about 16.3 times estimated 2007 earnings, compared with an average multiple of 14.8 for the Dow.