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Zimbabwe prices down by 14 percent

| May 21, 2014

So far this sales season, Zimbabwe’s average flue-cured price, at $3.18 per kg, is more than 14 percent down on that of the same period of last year, $3.71, according to a story in News Day.

No explanation was given as to why the prices paid to farmers were down so dramatically.

The latest figures issued by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) indicate that this season 151.5 million kg of flue-cured has been sold for $481.8 million. The sales comprised 109.5 million kg sold under contract and 42 million kg sold at auction.

By the same stage of last season, 118.8 million kg had been sold for $440.6 million.

At least 180 million kg of flue-cured is expected to be sold this year, up from 166 million kg last year.

Universal reports on challenging year

| May 21, 2014

Universal Corporation yesterday reported net income for the fiscal year ended March 31, at $149.0 million or $5.25 per diluted share, increased on that of the previous year’s $132.8 million or $4.66 per diluted share.

Segment operating income, which excludes certain one-off items, was $175.2 million, down by $57.6 million or 24.7 percent.

The reduction in segment operating income was primarily attributed to weaker margins in Brazil from higher green-leaf costs, increased currency “remeasurement” and exchange costs, and higher sales of carryover and uncommitted inventories in fiscal year 2013.

Revenues of $2.5 billion for fiscal year 2014 were said to have been increased by 3.3 percent compared with those of the previous year, as slightly lower volumes were offset by higher prices.

“We performed well in the face of a challenging environment this year, and our underlying business and customer relationships remain strong,” said George C. Freeman III, chairman, president and CEO, in announcing the results.

“Given the larger crops this year, shipping volumes in the second half of fiscal year 2014 exceeded those in the comparable period last year. These increased volumes partially offset lower levels of carryover volumes in the first half of the year, weaker margins in Brazil, and negative foreign currency ‘remeasurement’ and exchange loss comparisons this year …”

Meanwhile, Universal’s board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.51 per share on the common shares of the company, payable on Aug. 11 to shareholders of record at the close of business on July 14.

In addition, the board declared a quarterly dividend of $16.875 per share on the company’s Series B 6.75% Convertible Perpetual Preferred Stock, payable on June 16 to shareholders of record as of 5 p.m. Eastern Time on June 1.

The board set the date of the annual meeting of shareholders as Aug. 5, 2014.

Counterfeit Rizla booklets seized in China

| May 21, 2014

Rizla picMore than 1.2 million counterfeit Rizla booklets have been seized in China following an initiative led by Imperial Tobacco’s Group Security team.

The illicit products (pictured) were captured during a series of raids by the authorities in the provinces of Guangdong and Jiangxi.

“Lengthy investigations by Group Security into a number of smuggling networks targeting African and European markets played a crucial role in the success of the raids,” said a note posted on Imperial’s website.

“An initial swoop was made by the Chinese authorities on an underground packing house following weeks of surveillance.

“Subsequent raids were then made on a second packing house as well as two printing workshops and a fully stocked warehouse.”

Imperial said that counterfeit Rizla products had a serious impact on its sales, particularly in African markets such as South Africa and Senegal.

More smoking bans planned for Oman

| May 21, 2014

The Muscat Governorate plans to extend a ban on smoking tobacco in public places, according to a story in the Times of Oman.

The governorate is a region of Oman that includes the country’s capital, also known as Muscat.

Smoking has been banned since April 2010 in enclosed public places such as shopping malls, cafés and restaurants, but the extended ban would include places such as beaches and parks.

A report by the Ministry of Health was said to have shown that almost 70 percent of the sultanate’s residents suffered from some kind of curable disease related to smoking.

Smokers priced out of duty-paid market

| May 20, 2014

The consumption in the U.K. of tobacco products that have not had U.K. duty paid on them is said to be on the rise again, according to a story by Guy Bentley for City A.M, quoting figures from HM Revenue and Customs.

Non-U.K.-duty-paid (NUKDP) products accounted for 16 percent of the cigarette market during the financial year 2012–2013, while NUKDP products accounted for 48 percent of the roll-your-own tobacco market.

These figures were said to represent the first increase in the consumption of NUKDP products in recent years, though the story did not indicate what the previous consumption levels were.

The story suggested that the increase had been caused by tax increases since 2010 and said that a significant proportion of the increase was down to black market activity.

Counterfeit hand-rolling tobacco is said to be a growing problem.

Call for more hotels to go smoke-free

| May 20, 2014

More hotels in Malaysia should be declared smoke-free in a bid to reduce the amount of secondhand smoke in public places, according to a story in The Star quoting the Health Ministry’s deputy director-general, Dr. Lokman Hakim Sulaiman.

“There are a number of hotels where smoking is banned in the entire premises, and this is encouraged,” he said.

“I am also confident that the people are receptive towards such an initiative and we have to push forward this agenda.

The deputy director-general was speaking during an operation to curb smoking in public vehicles at the Sungai Besi toll plaza in Kuala Lumpur.

The operation, which was conducted simultaneously in every state, was aimed also at ensuring that no-smoking signs were displayed in public vehicles.

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