If Italy were to create a contagious crisis in the eurozone, investors may still find a lucky strike in British American Tobacco (BTI). The London-based cigarette-seller is up nearly 20% this year, outperforming all U.S. and Western European indices, proving once more that in times of fear, consumers and investors flock to the comfort of smokes.
With its Lucky Strike brand founded in the 1870s that's featured on AMC Network's (AMCX) Mad Men and in the tunes of Billy Joel, British American Tobacco counts on North America for $3.5 billion of its overall $14.9 billion in annual sales. With $5 billion in annual sales, Europe accounts for nearly 35% of overall revenue.
Signaling that cigarettes are getting a buzz from bleak economic times, British American Tobacco's sales in Europe, the Americas and Asia have all grown since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007. Overall, its operating profits have grown 64.6% since 2007 to $4.9 billion.
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