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Philip Morris Q1 earnings up 13%

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Cigarette maker Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) reported Thursday that first-quarter profit grew 13 percent on higher cigarette volumes and raised prices.

Net earnings climbed 12.6 percent to $2.16 billion, or $1.25 per share for the period ended March 31. That compared with $1.91 billion, or $1.06 per share, a year-earlier.

Net sales, excluding excise taxes, were up by 9.7 percent to $7.4 billion from the $6.7 billion recorded last year.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg were projecting earnings of $1.20 per share, on revenues of $7.3 billion.

"We have begun 2012 with strong momentum driven by our best quarterly organic volume performance since the spin-off in March 2008," Philip Morris chief executive Louis C. Camilleri said in a statement.

Cigarette shipment volume growth totalled 5.4 percent, driven by growth from all of its top 10 cigarette brands.

Volume climbed 12 percent in Asia. The European Union reported a 1.5 percent volume decline. Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa volume rose 3.6 percent. In Latin America and Canada, the figure was up 2.9 percent.

Marlboro shipments increased 5.2 percent to 72.1 billion units, with the largest increase of 10 percent in the Asia region.

In the European Union, the company's market share slipped 0.5 percentage points to 37.3 percent as gains in Belgium, Germany and Greece were more than offset by declines in France, Italy and Czech Republic.

The company purchased 18.1 million of its own stock for $1.5 billion. PMI said it has a share repurchase target of $6 billion for this year.

Given the recent strengthening of the U.S. greenback, the company revised its full-year 2012 per share earnings guidance.

It clawed back its profit estimate by five cents to between $5.20 and $5.30 a share, analysts expect to see a profit of $5.30 a share.

Philip Morris International is the world's second-biggest cigarette company after the state-controlled China National Tobacco Corp. Altria Group Inc. in Richmond, Va., owner of Philip Morris USA, spun off Philip Morris International in 2008. Altria is the largest U.S. cigarette seller.

The company’s stock traded lower by 1.49 percent falling to $86.43 each on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

Quick facts: Philip Morris International

Price: 75.9 USD

NYSE:PM
Market: NYSE
Market Cap: $118.2 billion
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