Philip Morris Int'l 4Q Profit Rises 11 Pct

By MICHAEL FELBERBAUM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) â¿¿ Cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc. said Thursday that its fourth-quarter net income increased 11 percent as it sold more cigarettes at higher prices.

The seller of Marlboro and other cigarette brands overseas said shipments rose nearly 3 percent and it grew market share in a number of key markets.

The company's quarterly performance helped increase its global market share, excluding China and the U.S., to a record 28.8 percent for the year, the company said.

Philip Morris International, based in New York and Switzerland, reported earnings of $2.1 billion, or $1.25 per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31, up from $1.9 billion, or $1.08 per share, a year ago. On an adjusted basis, it earned $1.24 per share, beating analyst estimates of $1.22 per share.

Excluding excise taxes, revenue increased nearly 3 percent to $7.9 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected revenue of $8.03 billion.

Looking forward, Philip Morris International said it expects full-year adjusted earnings to between $5.68 and $5.78 per share. Analysts expect earnings of $5.79.

Its shares rose $2.13, or about 2.4 percent, to close at $89.82 Thursday.

Smokers face tax hikes, bans, health concerns and social stigma worldwide, but the effect on cigarette demand generally is less stark outside the United States. Philip Morris International has compensated for volume declines by raising prices and cutting costs.

"Our overall brand portfolio is in excellent shape with a strong complimentary presence in profitable mid- and low-priced segments. ... and the pricing environment continues to be favorable," CEO Louis C. Camilleri said in a conference call with investors.

The world's second-biggest cigarette seller behind state-controlled China National Tobacco Corp. said it shipped 233.1 billion cigarettes during the quarter.

Shipments grew 7 percent in the company's region that encompasses Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but fell about 6 percent in the European Union as the region continues to be under pressure due to high unemployment and the continent's government debt crisis. Shipments also fell about 1 percent in Latin America and Canada.

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