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Universal to webcast results conference

| October 28, 2014

Universal Corporation is due to webcast a conference call from 17.00 Eastern Time on November 6 following the release of its results for the second quarter of fiscal year 2015 after market close on that date.

The conference call will be hosted by Candace C. Formacek, vice president and treasurer.

A live webcast of the conference call will be available on a listen-only basis at www.universalcorp.com and a replay will be available at that site until February 5.

A taped replay of the conference call will be available from 20.30 on November 6 through November 19 at (855) 859-2056. The telephone replay identification number is 24066410.

WHO won’t rest with cigarette taxation

| October 27, 2014

The drive toward global governance and taxation is a disturbing sign of much more to come, according to an editorial in the Washington Post commenting on decisions taken at the recent meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

‘The world, or a good part of it, struggles to cope with Ebola, and the United Nations continues to be obsessed by tobacco,’ the editorial said. ‘The World Health Organization, meeting in Moscow [COP6, October 13-18] came up with a treaty imposing a global tax on cigarettes and delegates of 179 nations signed it.

‘The United States isn’t a party to the agreement, but the drive toward global governance and taxation is a disturbing sign of much more to come.’

Later, the editorial made the point that decisions to balance risks and benefits can be made best by individual men and women without the heavy hand of legislative bodies.

‘Ceding such decisions to unaccountable international bureaucrats is ceding freedom,’ it said.

‘The global prohibitionists won’t rest with a cigarette tax. They’re not interested in good health so much as controlling the lives of everyone.’

The editorial is at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/24/editorial-prohibitionists-at-the-un/#!

Azerbaijan closes doorway on smokers

| October 27, 2014

Anti-smoking advocates and health experts have hailed recent government proposals that aim to cut the number of smokers in Azerbaijan, according to an Azer News story.

Few details of the proposals were given, but Musa Guliyev, deputy chairman of the Standing Committee on Social Policy, was said to have ‘underlined the necessity of adopting a law restricting smoking in public places along with the law “On tobacco and tobacco products”, which was adopted in Azerbaijan in 2001’.

Guliyev apparently suggested that fines should be imposed on people who smoke at home near children and in the doorways of houses.

Most of Azerbaijan’s smoking population comprises men, about 50 percent of whom smoke daily.

Forty percent of male smokers are said to smoke ‘at least one or two packs of 20 cigarettes per day’.

Heroic levels of smuggling into Vietnam

| October 27, 2014

The smuggling of cigarettes from Cambodia into Vietnam is on the rise, according to a story in The Cambodia Daily quoting recent Vietnamese media reports.

Last week, VietnamNet, an online news site in Vietnam, quoted Pham Kien Nghiep, the secretary-general of the Vietnam Tobacco Association, as saying that the number of smugglers along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border had risen drastically this year.

“There are too many unemployed people, all too ready to transport illegal cigarettes, despite the risks,” Nghiep was quoted as saying.

According to a report by Oxford Economics and the International Tax and Investment Center released in September, 21.9 billion untaxed and otherwise illicit cigarettes were smuggled into Vietnam last year.

And the Vietnam Tobacco Association estimates that 90 percent, or 19.7 billion, of those cigarettes were made up of two brands: Hero and Jet.

Choeng Vann Thor, head of the General Department of Taxation’s branch office in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district said Hero cigarettes were not sold in Cambodia.

“As I know, Hero cigarettes are not sold in Cambodia, but exported to Vietnam,” he said.

However, the brand is widely available across Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Long Sreng, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-economic crime police department, said he was not aware of any cigarette smuggling between Cambodia and Vietnam. “I don’t know about this. I am not the director, but just the deputy director,” he was quoted as saying.

Mighty row brewing in the Philippines

| October 27, 2014

Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) wants the Philippines government to take action against Mighty Corp. after the publication of a report by the Senate Tax Study and Research Office (STSRO) alleging ‘evidence of systematic and endemic fraud’ by Mighty, according to a story in The Philippine Star.

In a briefing on Friday, PMFTC president Paul Riley alleged the key findings by the STSRO confirmed suspicions of fraudulent activities by Mighty.

“A great deal of what we have suspected for a long time now is finally out in the open,” Riley was quoted as saying. “The STSRO uncovered several pieces of evidence that shed light on Mighty’s ability to sell all their products below tax and cost for almost 18 months now, while still enabling them to stay afloat.

“This remarkable, and I would contend explosive report, offers what was highlighted by a member of Congress as evidence of systematic and endemic fraud. The evidence may potentially expose Mighty to very serious liabilities as a consequence of the various practices discovered by the STSRO.”

But Mighty’s executive vice-president Oscar P. Barrientos rebutted the findings, which he said were preliminary and still subject to validation by the Congressional oversight committee.

“It is inaccurate and unfounded,” he said. “Let’s just wait for the official records and the truth will set us free. The committee has asked government agencies like the Bureau of Internal Revenue to submit official data to ensure fairness.”

In its report, the STSTRO alleged that Mighty had been undervaluing the cost of tobacco and imported raw materials to evade customs duties and import value added tax.

The STSTRO alleged that Mighty had been using imported materials to make products for export but diverting these products to the domestic market without paying duties and taxes.

SM envisions world without cigarettes

| October 24, 2014

Swedish Match’s new vision is: A world without cigarettes.

In announcing the company’s third quarter results to the end of September, CEO, Lars Dahlgren, said the availability and accessibility of SM’s high quality snus explained the uniquely low cigarette consumption in Sweden.

“In Norway, we are now witnessing a similar trend of migration from cigarettes to snus,” he said.

“With our heritage and deep experience and expertise in developing, producing and marketing quality products, Swedish Match is distinctly positioned to compete in and further develop the growing snus category while contributing significantly to improved public health.

“To further emphasize the company strategy and prospects we have during the quarter reformulated our vision. Our new company vision is ‘A world without cigarettes’.

“We create shareholder value by offering tobacco consumers enjoyable products of superior quality in a responsible way.

“By providing products that are recognized as safer alternatives to cigarettes, we can contribute significantly to improved public health.”

Later in his statement, Dahlgren noted that, on August 25, the US Food and Drug Administration had announced that Swedish Match’s Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) applications for its General snus line of products sold in the US were ‘complete’ and that they were being made publicly available for comments. SM, he said, had thereby become the first company to have an MRTP application accepted as complete by the FDA.

Turning to the company’s results, Dahlgren said that SM had reported increased sales and operating profit in the third quarter compared to those of the third quarter of 2013.

“The strongest growth came from the product area ‘other tobacco products’, which includes cigars and chewing tobacco.

“We also reported sales and operating profit growth within our snus and moist snuff product area. For snus and moist snuff, the operating profit comparison benefits from the non-recurrence of restructuring costs charged in the prior year’s third quarter.

“Underlying operating profit in local currencies also increased when excluding the effects of last year’s restructuring charges and international snus investments from both years.”

Sales for the third quarter increased by six percent to SEK3,416 million, from SEK3,230 million during the third quarter of 2013. In local currencies, sales increased by three percent.

Operating profit from product areas, which excludes the share of net profit from the Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG) and larger one-off items, increased by five percent during the third quarter from SEK836 million to SEK874 million, and by two percent in local currencies.

Operating profit from product areas was up by two percent in local currencies also when adjusted for increased costs related to international snus and restructuring charges in 2013.

Operating profit, which includes the share of net profit in STG and larger one-off items, was up by seven percent from SEK924 million to SEK989 million.

Basic earnings per share increased by 11 percent from SEK3.15 to SEK3.50.

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