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Illicit products sell strongly in Lithuania

| February 10, 2014

Illicit cigarettes account for more than a quarter of Lithuania’s tobacco product market, according to a Baltic Business Daily story quoting figures from an empty pack survey carried out by Nielsen.

But the survey indicated that illicit cigarette consumption had fallen by 1.4 percentage points to account for 28.2 percent of the country’s total cigarette consumption.

Nielsen conducted the survey for four tobacco companies in 20 Lithuanian cities and towns between September and October 2013.

Eighty-one percent of all the illegal tobacco products sold in Lithuania were said to have come from Belarusian factories.

Plain packs litigation ‘unlikely to succeed’

| February 10, 2014

The Scottish government would be “very confident” of defending plans to bring in standardized packaging for cigarettes if there were a legal challenge from tobacco companies, according to a Herald Scotland story quoting Public Health Minister Michael Matheson.

Matheson said that introducing standardized packs for cigarettes and other tobacco products was necessary to help Scotland “build a generation free from tobacco.”

He was speaking after reports that the tobacco industry was ready to sue the Scottish government for £500 million if standardized packs were introduced.

The Scotsman newspaper was quoted as having said that Philip Morris International had based the £500 million figure on the loss of intellectual property rights that the introduction of standardized packaging would involve.

Anti-smoking campaigners at ASH Scotland said any legal action by cigarette firms was “unlikely to succeed.”

Imperial statement due on Thursday

| February 10, 2014

Imperial Tobacco said on Friday that it was due to issue an interim management statement on Feb. 13.

Universal declares dividends

| February 10, 2014

Universal Corp.’s board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.51 per common share payable on May 12 to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 14.

The board declared also a quarterly dividend of $16.875 per share on the company’s Series B 6.75% convertible perpetual preferred stock (series B preferred stock) payable on March 17 to shareholders of record as of 5 p.m. Eastern Time on March 1.

Effective with the payment of the common stock dividend on Feb. 10, the company will adjust the conversion rate on its series B preferred stock.

“The adjusted conversion rate on the series B preferred stock will be 21.9648 common shares per $1,000 of liquidation preference of series B preferred stock,” Universal said in a press note. “The new rate will be equivalent to a conversion price of approximately $45.53 per common share.”

PMI’s 2013 volume shipments holed by tax regime changes in the Philippines

| February 7, 2014

Philip Morris International’s shipment volumes during the 12 months to the end of December, at 880,169 million, were down by 5.1 percent on those of the 12 months to the end of December 2012.

Volumes were down in each of PMI’s region: by 7.7 percent in Asia; by 6.5 percent in the EU; by 2.4 percent in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (EEMA); and by 1.4 percent in Latin America and Canada.

Overall, the decline in volumes was said to have been caused principally by a significant erosion of total industry tax-paid volume.

In Asia, PMI’s volumes were hit by the unfavorable impact of a January 2013 excise tax increase and a surge in the prevalence of domestic non-duty paid products in the Philippines, and lower shares in Japan and Pakistan, partly offset by the company’s performance in Indonesia.

Excluding the Philippines, overall, PMI’s cigarette shipment volume decreased by 2.7 percent.

In the EU, volumes fell because of the unfavorable impact of excise tax-driven price increases, the weak economic and employment environment, the share growth of the other tobacco products (OTP) category, and the prevalence of non-duty-paid products.

Volume declines in the EEMA were due to the impact of price increases in Russia and Ukraine, an increase in illicit trade in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, and a weak economy in Russia.

Total shipments of Marlboro cigarettes of 291.1 billion were down by 3.5 percent, due primarily to declines in the EU, notably in France, Poland and Spain, partly offset by Italy; in the EEMA, mainly in Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, largely offset by countries of North Africa; in Asia, predominantly in Japan and the Philippines, partly offset by Indonesia; and in Latin America and Canada, mainly in Argentina and Brazil, partly offset by Colombia and Mexico.

Excluding the Philippines, Marlboro cigarette shipments were down by 1.3 percent overall.

Total L&M shipments of 95 billion were up by 1.4 percent, total Bond Street shipments of 44.9 billion were down by 4.2 percent, total Parliament shipments were up by 2.9 percent to 44.7 billion, total Philip Morris shipments decreased by 7.9 percent to 35 billion, total Chesterfield shipments of 34.4 billion were down by 3.2 percent, and total Lark shipments of 28.8 billion were decreased by 10.2 percent.

Total shipments of OTP, in cigarette equivalent units, grew by 4.9 percent, notably in the EU, mainly in Belgium, France, Hungary and Italy.

Total shipments of cigarettes and OTP in cigarette equivalents were down by 4.7 percent.

Meanwhile, during the fourth quarter of last year, PMI’s cigarette shipments, at 223,199 million, were down by 4.3 percent on those of the three months to the end of December 2012.

Asia region shipments were down by 9.4 percent to 74,821 million, EU shipments were down by 4.9 percent to 44,437 million, and EEMA shipments were down by 1.2 percent to 76,428 million.

Latin America and Canada shipments were up by 4 percent to 27,513 million.

In announcing the results, CEO André Calantzopoulos said PMI had confronted an extremely harsh operating environment in 2013.

“Within this context, we withstood the pressures well and delivered a solid financial performance,” he said.

“As foreseen, our fourth-quarter results were particularly strong, contributing to our full-year adjusted diluted earnings per share growth of 10 percent, excluding the impact of unfavorable currency.

“This performance reflects our continued robust pricing and excellent share momentum.”

“The challenges of last year, including significant currency headwinds, are likely to persist into 2014 and are reflected in our full-year forecast for reported diluted EPS, along with significant expenditures behind the development of reduced-risk products.

“Our overarching objective remains our steadfast commitment to generously reward our long-term shareholders.”

For the full year 2013, PMI reported diluted earnings per share up by 1.7 percent to $5.26 and adjusted diluted earnings per share up by 3.4 percent to $5.40.

Reported net revenues, excluding excise taxes, were down by 0.5 percent to $31.2 billion.

Reported operating companies’ income was down by 2.7 percent to $13.8 billion, and adjusted operating companies’ income was down by 1.1 percent to $14.1 billion.

Reported operating income was down by 2.5 percent to $13.5 billion.

Universal sees opportunities for growth

| February 7, 2014

Universal Corp’s net income for the third quarter to the end of December was $38.6 million or $1.36 per diluted share, up from $35.5 million or $1.25 per diluted share during the three months to the end of December 2012.

Segment operating income during the third quarter of fiscal 2014, at $74.6 million, was up by 18 per cent on that of the previous third quarter, on combined earnings improvement in every segment.

At the same time, consolidated revenues increased by 13 per cent to $767.8 million on higher overall volumes, mainly due to the current season’s larger African crops, partly offset by lower volumes in Brazil.

Meanwhile, net income for the nine months ended December 31 was $122.3 million or $4.31 per diluted share, compared with $106.6 million or $3.75 per diluted share for the same period of the previous fiscal year.

Segment operating income was $130.3 million for the nine-month period to the end of December, a decrease of $55.6 million from that of the nine months to the end of December 2012.

Revenues increased by two per cent to $1.9 billion for the first nine months of fiscal year 2014, on slightly lower volumes at higher prices.

George C. Freeman, III, chairman, president, and CEO said that one of Universal’s strengths was the ability to manage its business well in uncertain global markets.

“While it is still very preliminary, the current outlook for the 2014 crops, which will impact our fiscal year 2015 results, indicates increased production in some origins,” he said.

“At the same time, there are possible reductions in cigarette manufacturers’ needs due to lower cigarette sales in Europe and the United States. However, our uncommitted inventories remain at relatively low levels.

“Our focus remains on efficiently managing our business and positioning ourselves to meet the needs of our customers and suppliers while delivering consistent results to our shareholders.

“We believe that there are opportunities to grow our business by investing in projects that bring additional value and services to our customers.

“We continue to make good progress on the programs announced in October to expand our leaf production and processing capacity in Mozambique and to enhance production efficiency in several other origins…”

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