In Asia, one of its largest growth areas, shipments grew nearly 6 percent. The company benefited from increases in Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.The events offered the company a sales opportunity because supply disruptions led Japan Tobacco Inc., the world's No. 3 tobacco maker, to stop shipping cigarettes within Japan. Philip Morris International also bought Philippines company Fortune Tobacco Co. in February 2010, bolstering its Asian business. The company said total Marlboro shipments grew more than 1 percent in the quarter to 75.4 billion cigarettes. It also saw gains in its L&M, Parliament, Bond Street and Lark brands. Philip Morris International noted that changes in currency exchange rates hurt its profit in the quarter. When the U.S. dollar is rising against the world's other currencies, companies that sell goods internationally take a hit when converting revenue in foreign currencies back into the dollar. That effect is particularly strong for Philip Morris International, because it does all its business overseas. For the full year, the company said it earned $8.8 billion, or $5.17 per share, in 2012, compared with $8.59 billion, or $4.85 per share, in 2011. Revenue excluding excise taxes increased about 1 percent to $31.4 billion. Its shipments were up more than 1 percent to 927 billion cigarettes. The company also said it exceeded its one-year gross productivity and cost savings target of $300 million in 2012 and announced a similar target for 2013. During the quarter, the company spent $2 billion to buy back 22.4 million shares of stock under a three-year share repurchase program of $18 billion began in August. Altria Group Inc. in Richmond, Va., the owner of Philip Morris USA, spun off Philip Morris International as a separate company in 2008. Altria is the largest U.S. cigarette seller. ___ Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.