Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Report

reaffirmed its previous 2001 projections this morning, saying it expects earnings to increase 9% to 11%, but the company cautioned that the strong dollar represents "a continuing risk" to the forecast.

The company's earnings per share growth estimate excludes certain one-time items but includes charges associated with the recent acquisition of

Nabisco

. According to

First Call/Thomson Financial

, nine analysts expect the company to earn $4.07 a share for fiscal 2001, up 9.7% from a profit of $3.71 in the year-ago period.

Shares of Philip Morris gained 47 cents, or 1%, to $48.53 in recent

New York Stock Exchange

trading. Earlier today, the stock hit a 52-week high of $49.

For the first quarter ending in March, analysts estimate Philip Morris will earn 95 cents a share, up from 89 cents a share in the same period one year ago. In January, Philip Morris

missed analysts' fourth-quarter expectations by a penny, even as underlying earnings for the period rose 13% from a year ago.

The tobacco and consumer products company also believes cash earnings, which exclude the effect of goodwill amortization, will increase 13% to 15% a share in 2001. Philip Morris expects the earnings per share growth rate to be stronger in the second half of the year than in the first half.

The company, which is based in New York, still expects to file a registration statement for an initial public offering of 10% to 15% of its global food business by the end of the first quarter.