четверг, 28 июня 2007 г.

Altria to test Marlboro smokeless tobacco product

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The maker of Marlboro, the top selling cigarette in the United States, is introducing a type of smokeless tobacco in August, as smoking bans spread and more smokers quit. Altria Group Inc.'s (NYSE:MO - News) Philip Morris USA unit will launch the product, called Marlboro Snus, into the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Snus are small pouches of dried tobacco that users place in the mouth. Unlike chewing tobacco or so-called "dip," Snus do not require spitting. Marlboro Snus, modeled after products that are popular in Sweden, will come in four varieties -- rich, mild, mint and spice, according to a release e-mailed to Reuters on Friday. Last year Philip Morris USA introduced Taboka, another smoke-free, spit-free tobacco pouch, in a test market in Indianapolis.

Philip Morris USA Says Watson Ruling Should Not Affect Outcome of ''Lights'' Cases

NEW YORK-(BUSINESS WIRE)-The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to reverse rulings by lower federal courts in the Watson case and remand it to state court does not negatively affect the ultimate outcome of the case or that of other "Lights" cases, Philip Morris USA said today. "Today's ruling is narrow and merely determined whether the Watson case should be heard in federal court or state court. We have compelling defenses to the Watson claim that have been advanced in state courts," said William S. Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris USA vice president and associate general counsel. Ohlemeyer added that the Watson case will have minimal effect on "Lights" or other class actions filed against the company after enactment of the Class Action Fairness Act in 2005, which requires most class actions to be heard in federal court. In considering the issue of federal jurisdiction in the Watson case, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit earlier had ruled that because Philip Morris USA tested and marketed its "Lights" cigarettes under the Federal Trade Commission's "direct and comprehensive control," a federal court should hear the case. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision, holding that the company's compliance with federal regulations did not confer exclusive jurisdiction on federal courts. Today's decision clarified the procedural issue of when defendants, who are acting under a federal agency like the FTC and sued in state court, can remove the case to federal court. While today's decision does not directly address the issue of whether the federal labeling act or agency regulation of a defendant's advertising and marketing activities prevents plaintiffs from suing under state consumer fraud laws, the Court did note that Philip Morris USA was acting pursuant to "... considerable regulatory detail and supervision...." Philip Morris USA has long maintained that Congress and the FTC created a comprehensive regulatory scheme for marketing "low tar" and "Lights" cigarettes and, that these types of class actions are pre-empted by federal law or exempted from state consumer fraud laws. Many courts have so held and today's decision adds further support to those rulings. The company previously asked that the Watson case be dismissed on the basis of preemption and the consumer fraud exemption. The company now looks forward to presenting its arguments before the Arkansas state court. The case is Watson v. Philip Morris USA Inc.

Reynolds American Inc. Announces Public Offering of Senior Secured Notes

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., June 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI - News) has announced that it commenced today a public offering of $1.55 billion aggregate principal amount of its senior secured notes, consisting of $400 million principal amount of floating rate senior secured notes due 2011, $700 million principal amount of 6.75% senior secured notes due 2017 and $450 million principal amount of 7.25% senior secured notes due 2037. The notes will be guaranteed by certain of RAI's domestic subsidiaries, including its material domestic subsidiaries. RAI intends to use the net proceeds from the offering, together with available cash, to prepay in full $1.54 billion principal amount outstanding under RAI's term loan facility, plus accrued interest thereon. This indebtedness was incurred in connection with RAI's acquisition of the Conwood companies in May 2006. The notes will be sold under RAI's shelf registration statement filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The sale of the notes is expected to close on June 21, 2007. Citigroup Global Markets Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., Lehman Brothers Inc. and Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated are acting as joint book- running managers for the offering. The offering of the notes is being made only by means of a prospectus and related prospectus supplement, copies of which, when available, may be obtained by contacting Citigroup Global Markets Inc. toll-free at 1-877-858-5407 or J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. toll-free at 1-800-245-8812. These documents will also be filed with the SEC and will be available at the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov. This press release is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy nor shall there be any sale of the offered notes in any state in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state. ABOUT US Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI - News) is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company; Conwood Company, LLC; Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, Inc; and R.J. Reynolds Global Products, Inc. * R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the second-largest U.S. tobacco company, manufactures about one of every three cigarettes sold in the country. The company's brands include six of the 10 best-selling U.S. brands: Camel, Kool, Pall Mall, Winston, Salem and Doral. * Conwood Company, LLC is the nation's second-largest manufacturer of smokeless tobacco products. Its leading brands are Kodiak, Grizzly and Levi Garrett. Conwood also sells and distributes a variety of tobacco products manufactured by Lane, Limited, including Winchester and Captain Black little cigars, and Bugler roll-your-own tobacco. * Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, Inc. manufactures Natural American Spirit cigarettes and other additive-free tobacco products. * R.J. Reynolds Global Products, Inc. manufactures, sells and distributes American-blend cigarettes and other tobacco products to a variety of customers worldwide.

ALTRIA GROUP, INC. MARKET REPORTS

ALTRIA GROUP, INC. REPORTS

2007 FIRST-QUARTER RESULTS

Reported diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of $1.01, including the items detailed on Schedule 3, versus $1.24 in 2006, which included a $0.30 per share tax benefit

Adjusted for items, diluted earnings per share from continuing operations up 5.1% to $1.03 versus $0.98 in 2006

Altria raises forecast for 2007 full-year diluted earnings per share from continuing operations to a range of $4.20 to $4.25, up from its previous projection of $4.15 to $4.20

Strong operating companies income growth of 9.5% at Philip Morris International

NEW YORK, April 19, 2007 ? Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO) today announced reported diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of $1.01 in the first quarter of 2007, including items detailed on the attached Schedule 3, versus $1.24 in the first quarter of 2006. The year-ago period included a $0.30 per share tax benefit from the reversal of tax reserves following the conclusion of an IRS examination of Altria?s consolidated tax returns for the years 1996 through 1999. Adjusted for that and other items, as detailed in the table below, diluted earnings per share from continuing operations were up 5.1% to $1.03, versus $0.98 in the year-earlier period.

Strategically, the key event of the first quarter was the successful spin-off of Kraft. We now are focused on growing our tobacco businesses, while continuing to take measures to further enhance shareholder value,? said Louis C. Camilleri, chairman and chief executive officer of Altria Group, Inc.

Philip Morris International had a strong first quarter with robust income growth, driven by higher pricing and aided by favorable currency, but faced challenges in certain markets, most notably Japan and Germany,? Mr. Camilleri said. ?Philip Morris USA had a relatively weak quarter, but its retail share and volume performance improved as the quarter unfolded.

Kraft Spin-Off Completed

On March 30, 2007, the 88.9% of Kraft?s outstanding shares previously owned by Altria were distributed to Altria shareholders of record on March 16, 2007 (the ?record date?). Altria shareholders received 0.692024 of a share of Kraft for each share of Altria common stock held as of the record date. Altria shareholders received cash in lieu of fractional shares for amounts of less than one Kraft share. Additional details of the spin-off are available in the Information Statement mailed to all shareholders of Altria.

Acquisitions and Divestitures

During the first quarter of 2007, Philip Morris International (PMI) acquired control of Lakson Tobacco Company Limited, increasing its shareholding to over 97%. Lakson Tobacco is Pakistan?s second-largest tobacco company, with cigarette volume of approximately 30 billion units in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006. In the first quarter, PMI recorded one month of volume of 2.9 billion units and equity earnings of $2.1 million for Lakson Tobacco.

DOMESTIC TOBACCO

Philip Morris USA (PM USA), Altria Group, Inc.?s domestic tobacco business, achieved retail share gains for its premium brands Marlboro and Parliament, offset by share losses concentrated in PM USA?s non-support brands.

Operating companies income increased 1.3% to $1.1 billion, driven by lower wholesale promotional allowance rates, decreased promotional spending and lower general and administrative costs, largely offset by lower volume, increased resolution expenses and higher spending on new products.

PM USA?s shipment volume of 40.6 billion units was down 6.2% or 2.7 billion units versus the previous year. PM USA estimates that overall industry weakness accounted for about 2.0 billion units of this shipment decline. The balance was primarily due to higher wholesaler inventory depletions of PM USA brands versus the prior year, timing of promotions and consumer pantry purchases in advance of the January 1, 2007 excise tax increase in Texas. Adjusting for these factors, PM USA estimates its volume decline would have been approximately 5%.

As shown in the following table, share gains for Marlboro and Parliament of 0.4 points and 0.1 point, respectively, were offset by losses of 0.3 share points in non-support brands and 0.1 share point each for Virginia Slims and Basic.

Marlboro Smooth was introduced nationally in March 2007 and is meeting PM USA?s expectations. Marlboro Smooth is a new, full-flavor menthol product that reinforces Marlboro?s flavor heritage and its position as the leader in the premium category.

Although PM USA?s share was unchanged in the first quarter of 2007 versus the prior-year period, share trends improved in March, following weaker share trends in January and February 2007 due to lower promotional spending than the previous year. PM USA?s underlying shipment performance improved strongly in March.

PM USA estimates that total cigarette industry volume declined between 4% and 5% during the first quarter of 2007, a rate significantly higher than the long-term underlying trend. The accelerated rate of decline was driven by a number of price-related factors, including reductions in manufacturers? off-invoice allowances and increases in manufacturers? list prices related to stepped-up resolution payments, as well as increased state excise taxes, primarily in Texas. PM USA estimates that as the year unfolds, the industry decline will moderate, and that for the full year, the total industry volume decline will be about 3% to 4%.

2007 First-Quarter Results

Cigarette shipment volume for Philip Morris International (PMI), Altria Group, Inc.?s international tobacco business, increased 1.5% to 213.3 billion units, driven by the inclusion of all Lakson volume in Pakistan beginning in March and solid gains in Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, North Africa, Poland and Ukraine. Partially offsetting the volume increase were declines in Japan and Russia. Excluding acquisitions, PMI?s cigarette shipment volume was essentially flat. PMI?s total tobacco volume, which included 1.9 billion cigarette equivalent units of other tobacco products (OTPs), grew 1.3% to 215.2 billion units versus the same period last year.

Operating companies income increased 9.5% to $2.2 billion, due primarily to higher pricing and favorable currency of $96 million.

PMI?s market share in the first quarter of 2007 advanced in many countries, including gains in Austria, Argentina, Australia, Egypt, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Serbia, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Total Marlboro cigarette shipments of 78.2 billion units were down 2.8%, due mainly to inventory depletions in Japan and erosion in vending in Germany, partially offset by higher volume in Italy, Russia, North Africa, worldwide duty-free and the successful launch of Marlboro Filter Plus in Korea. Marlboro market share was up in Brazil, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.

In the European Union (EU) region, PMI?s cigarette shipments were up 3.4% or 2.2 billion units, driven by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Poland. Cigarette market share in the EU region rose 0.2 points to 39.5%, with strong share performances in France, Hungary, Italy and Poland, largely offset by declines in the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain.

In Italy, the total cigarette market was down 0.5% versus the year-ago period and PMI?s in-market sales rose 1.1%, driven by Marlboro, Chesterfield and Diana. This fueled a 0.9 point increase in market share to 54.2%.

In Germany, total tobacco volume declined 6.8% versus the year-ago quarter, due mainly to lower other tobacco products volume. PMI?s total tobacco share at 29.1% was unchanged versus the first quarter of 2006.

The total cigarette market in Germany grew slightly, due to the growth of the low-price segment. However, PMI?s in-market sales declined 2.1% and market share was down 0.9 points to 36.2%, largely attributable to the contraction of industry sales through the vending channel. Total industry sales through the vending channel declined 38% in the first quarter of 2007, due to a reduction in the number of vending machines as a result of regulations that require electronic age verification. Compliance with the new regulations resulted in the elimination of many older-generation vending machines, and access to the remaining machines has become more complex and less convenient. As a consequence, even though PMI?s total cigarette share in vending and in other trade channels grew 0.2 share points and 0.6 share points, respectively, its overall share declined.

In Germany, Marlboro declined 3.5 share points, partially offset by a gain of 2.6 points for L&M. Marlboro?s share declined to 25.9%, reflecting consumer down-trading to low-price brands and losses in the vending machine channel. With a 42.1% share of the vending channel, Marlboro was disproportionately impacted by the decline in industry sales through this channel. In Spain, the total cigarette market was flat versus the same quarter last year. PMI?s in-market sales were down 3.3% and market share declined 1.0 point to 31.7%, due mainly to Marlboro, which suffered from a difficult comparison to the prior-year period. However, PMI experienced solid improvement in its profitability in Spain during the first quarter.

In France, continued moderate price gaps and PMI?s strong brand equity generated a market share gain of 0.7 points to a record 43.3%. Share for Marlboro and the Philip Morris brand were up 0.4 points each, to 31.3% and 6.2%, respectively.

In Poland, the total market was up and PMI?s shipments grew 8.3%. Market share advanced 2.3 points to 40.8%, mainly driven by Marlboro and L&M, partially offset by the continuing decline of the low-price 70mm segment.

In the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa region, PMI?s shipments were down 0.5%, driven primarily by declines in Russia and Turkey, partially offset by gains in Algeria, Egypt and Ukraine. In Russia, shipments were down 6.6% and share declined 0.2 points to 26.6%, due largely to L&M and local low-price brands, partially offset by higher sales and market share of higher-margin international brands, Marlboro, Parliament and Chesterfield. In Turkey, shipments were down 3.5% and market share declined 2.1 points to 41.4%, due to the February 2007 tax-driven retail price increase. In Ukraine, shipments grew 6.4% and share rose 0.5 points to 33.2%, driven by continued consumer up-trading to premium brands, particularly Marlboro and Chesterfield. In Egypt, improved economic conditions and increased tourism continued to fuel the growth of the total cigarette industry and premium brands. PMI?s shipments rose 28.2% and share advanced 1.0 point to 11.4%, driven by Marlboro and L&M.

In Asia, PMI?s volume rose 0.4% including all Lakson volume in Pakistan beginning in March. Excluding the additional volume from Lakson, volume was down 5.2%, due primarily to Japan, partially offset by gains in Indonesia and Korea.

In Japan, the total market declined 5.7% as a result of the July 2006 tax-driven price increase. PMI?s in-market sales were down 5.8%, resulting in PMI?s market share remaining unchanged at 24.7%. PMI shipments were down 17.5% versus the year-ago quarter, due to the effects of the 2006 price increase and an unfavorable comparison with the prior-year quarter, which included distributor purchases in advance of the 2006 price increase and higher inventories at year-end 2006.

In Indonesia, PMI shipment volume rose 5.8% and market share increased 0.5 points to 28.4%, led by the continued strong performance of A Hijau. In Korea, shipments increased 25.8%, reflecting the timing of shipments and the successful launch of Marlboro Filter Plus in the fourth quarter of 2006. Marlboro Filter Plus is a new one-milligram cigarette with a highly innovative cigarette and filter construction.

In Latin America, cigarette shipments were up 0.3%, due mainly to gains in Argentina, partially offset by the timing of shipments in Mexico. The total market in Argentina was up 2.3%, while PMI shipments grew 9.8% and share was up 4.7 points to 68.5%, driven by the continued growth of the Philip Morris brand. In Mexico, PMI?s shipments were down 6.3%, reflecting increased trade purchases in the fourth quarter of 2006 ahead of the 2007 tax increase. However, market share grew 0.7 points to 62.3%, driven by the launch of Delicados Supremos in January 2007 and the continued growth of Benson & Hedges.

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