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TheStreet Open House

Altria Group 3Q Profit Rises On Cost-cutting

MICHAEL FELBERBAUM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) ¿ The Marlboro Man roped in a larger portion of the cigarette market even as smokers bought fewer of Altria Group Inc.'s cigarettes in the third quarter.

Cost-cutting and Altria's cigar business helped keep the company in the saddle with a 1.7 percent increase in its third-quarter profit.

The Richmond-based parent company of the nation's largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, said Wednesday that Marlboro was the only leading premium brand to increase market share during the third quarter as many consumers switched to cheaper brands or bought fewer cigarettes to save money.

While Marlboro's volume fell about 15 percent, it regained market share lost the previous quarter and ended up with 41.9 percent of the U.S. cigarette market, according to data from Information Resources Inc.

"The good news for Marlboro is it is such a strong brand," Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo said of the cigarettes, which now sell for an average of $5.29 per pack of 20. "That's pretty darn expensive. You have to really like the product."

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