Cigarette Shipments Down, But Tobacco Giant’s Profits Up

Well, this is good news: the largest tobacco company in the United States, Altria Group Inc., reported that its fourth-quarter earnings went up 27 percent, even though shipments of cigarettes dropped seven percent in the same time period. 

Altria – which makes both Copenhagen snuff and Marlboro, the most popular cigarette in the country by sales – netted a mere $919 million for the quarter, or just shy of a billion dollars, easily outdistancing the paltry $725 million it netted for the same period last year, according to a Jan. 27 Bloomberg article.

Despite a drop in cigarette shipments, Altria was able to improve earnings because it raised cigarette prices twice in 2010, and snuff sales also rose. In 2009 Altria acquired UST Inc., and became the largest manufacturer of smokeless tobacco. 

And here I was worried that declining cigarette sales were hurting the U.S. tobacco business. Silly me.

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