By MICHAEL FELBERBAUM
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) â¿¿ Reynolds American, the nation's second-biggest tobacco company, saw its fourth-quarter profit fall 54 percent on pension and trademark-related charges and other costs.
But earnings for the maker of Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit cigarettes, excluding one-time charges, rose about 6 percent as consumers bought more smokeless tobacco brands like Grizzly and Kodiak.
Smokeless tobacco sales, as well as higher prices and productivity gains, offset cigarette volume declines and increased promotional spending.
Reynolds American Inc., based in Winston-Salem, N.C., said its net income fell to $139 million, or 25 cents per share, for the three-month period ended Dec. 31, down from $304 million, or 52 cents per share, a year ago. Adjusted earnings were 76 cents per share, beating Wall Street expectations by three cents.
Revenue excluding excise taxes fell slightly to $2.08 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected $2.06 billion.
Citi analyst Vivien Azer said Reynolds had a "solid finish in a tough competitive environment," in a note to investors.
Company shares fell 33 cents to $43.89 in morning trading.
"Continued economic weakness, combined with an intensely competitive marketplace presented significant challenges for our businesses," CEO Daniel M. Delen said in a conference call with investors.
The number of cigarettes sold by its R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. subsidiary fell about 3 percent during the quarter to 17.1 billion, compared with its estimate of a total industry decline of less than 1 percent. It sold 5.5 percent more of its Pall Mall brand and volumes of Camel fell slightly. The brands account for more than 60 percent of its total cigarette volume.
Camel's market share remained stable at 8.6 percent of the U.S. market, while Pall Mall's market share grew 0.3 percentage points to 8.9 percent.
The company has promoted Pall Mall as a longer-lasting and more affordable cigarette for smokers who are weathering the weak economy and high unemployment. The company has said that half of the people who try the brand continue using it.