6. Altria Group ( MO)

Company profile: Altria, with a market value of $61 billion, is the leading seller of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in the U.S., and the number two seller of cigars. Its businesses include: Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., John Middleton, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and Philip Morris Capital. It also owns a 27% interest in SABMiller ( SAB), the world's second-largest brewer.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 0.2% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 31%. They carry a whopping 5.53% dividend yield. Altria repurchased $1.3 billion of its shares and has $673 million remaining under its current buyback program, which it intends to complete in 2012. Morningstar analysts say "Altria is well-positioned to generate steady medium-term earnings growth. The addictive nature of cigarettes and Altria's dominance of the U.S. market are the reasons behind our wide economic moat rating."

S&P has its shares rated "buy," and its survey of analysts found three "buys," three "buy/holds," 10 "holds," and one "weak hold."

5. Reynolds American ( RAI)

Company profile: Reynolds American, with a $24 billion market value, is the second-largest domestic cigarette manufacturer in the U.S. Its brands include Camel, Kool and Pall Mall and the smokeless tobacco company Conwood.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are down 1.9% this year, but have a three-year annualized return of 38% and, over 10 years, an annual return of 13%. The stock has a 5.51% dividend yield. Reynolds launched a 2 1/2-year, $2.5 billion buyback program in November 2011 and subsequently bought $276 million in stock last year. S&P gives its shares a "buy" rating, and in a survey of analysts found two "buy" ratings, two "buy/holds," seven "holds," and three "weak holds."

Reynolds American is expected to earn $2.96 per share in 2012 and earnings will grow 8% next year. The company had almost $2 billion in cash on the books at year-end.

4. Lorillard ( LO)

Company profile: Lorillard, with a market value of $17 billion, is the third-largest cigarette manufacturer in the U.S. and its flagship brand, Newport, claims a 13% share of the domestic market and a 36% share of the menthol category.

Investor takeaway: Lorillard's shares are up 13% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 32%. Over 10 years, the annual return is 17.4%. The stock has a 4.81% dividend yield. S&P has its shares rated "buy" and its survey of analysts found two "buy" ratings, one "buy/hold," and nine "holds."

Lorillard had $1.6 billion in cash at year-end. Lorillard repurchased about $1.6 billion of its shares in 2011 and has $187 million remaining in its current, $750 million program.

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