Altria reaffirmed guidance for adjusted full-year earnings in the range of $1.85 to $1.89 a share, representing a growth rate of 6% to 8% from the year before. However, the company said that the business climate will likely to remain challenging, as adult consumers remain under economic pressure and face high unemployment.
Altria also said that the second quarter could be more challenging for income growth vs. a year-ago.
Altria said first-quarter earnings rose 38% to $813 million from the prior-year quarter due primarily to higher operating income and higher earnings from Altria's equity investment in
in the first quarter.
The company's first-quarter adjusted earnings rose 7.7% to 42 cents a share vs. 39 cents a share in the prior-year period, while reported earnings were up 39.3%. Altria noted that reported first-quarter results were higher than those for the prior-year period, due primarily to higher 2010 operating companies income from cigarettes, smokeless products and wine, and higher 2010 earnings from Altria's equity investment in SABMiller.
These factors were partially offset by lower OCI from financial services and cigars.
Net revenue increased 27.3% to $5.8 billion primarily from higher pricing related to last year's federal excise tax increase on tobacco products.
The Thomson Reuters average estimate for Altria's first-quarter earnings was 40 cents a share on revenue of $3.83 billion.
In addition to easily beating analysts' first-quarter estimates, Altria increased its dividend by 2.9% to an annualized rate of $1.40 a share.
-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York
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