* Q1 underlying net tobacco revenue up 1 pct
* Confirms guidance for "modest" growth in full-year EPS
* Shares up 0.3 pct
LONDON, Feb 13 Imperial Tobacco Group
said underlying tobacco net revenue rose 1 percent in the first
quarter, in line with its expectations, as it maintained
momentum in growth markets in the Middle East and Asia.
Imperial, maker of Davidoff and Gauloises cigarettes and the
world's No. 4 international tobacco company by market share,
posted first-quarter tobacco net revenue of 1.56 billion pounds
The British group said it was on track to meet its outlook
for the year of modest growth in earnings per share at constant
exchange rates and for at least a 10 percent increase in
Imperial and its rivals such as Philip Morris International
and British American Tobacco PLC are grappling
with declining sales in a number of markets due to increasing
government regulation and more health-conscious consumers, as
well as economic weakness and smuggling.
Imperial said it had a "resilient" performance in mature
markets, with tobacco net revenue up 1 percent as strong results
in Australia and Germany were in part offset by industry
declines in Britain and Poland.
Imperial is focusing on 10 top growth brands, which include
West and JPS, and on markets where it has typically less than 15
percent share and opportunities to grow, such as the United
States and countries in the Middle East and Asia.
Its top brands grew volumes by an underlying 2 percent, it
said, accounting for 43 percent of its total volume, up 3 points
on a year ago, and 39 percent of its net tobacco revenue.
Shares in the group, which have fallen 3.6 percent in the
last 12 months, were trading up 0.3 percent at 2,229 pence at
Tobacco groups have spotted an opportunity in electronic
cigarettes, battery-powered metal tubes that turn nicotine-laced
liquid into vapour which are gaining in popularity in Europe and
the United States.
The company had said late last year that the launch of
e-cigarettes and cost cuts would help it deliver "modest"
earnings growth in fiscal 2014, which began on Oct. 1, or growth
below the 6 percent it saw in fiscal 2013. It had also said that
cost cuts were expected to yield savings of around 60 million
pounds in 2014.