RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Marlboro maker Altria Group posted flat second-quarter earnings Tuesday as higher prices helped to offset decline in the number of cigarettes it sold.
The owner of the nation's biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, also announced a new $1 billion share buyback program to be completed by the end of 2015 and narrowed its full-year earnings guidance.
The Richmond company reported earnings of $1.26 billion, or 64 cents per share, in the quarter ended June 30, compared with $1.26 billion, or 63 cents per share, a year ago.
Excluding one-time items, earnings were 65 cents per share, matching projections from analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.
Revenue, excluding excise taxes, rose about 1 percent to $4.57 billion. Analysts expected $4.62 billion, according to Zacks.
Its shares fell 57 cents to $41.44 in morning trading Tuesday.
Cigarette shipments fell 5 percent to 32.1 billion cigarettes. Volumes of its premium Marlboro brand fell nearly 5 percent but its share of the retail U.S. market rose 0.3 percentage points to 44 percent. The company's share of the U.S. retail market rose 0.3 percentage points to 51 percent.
The Marlboro brand has been under pressure from competitors and lower-priced cigarette brands amid economic uncertainty and high unemployment. The brand sold for an average of $5.93 per pack during the second quarter, compared with an average of $4.47 per pack for the cheapest brand.
That's on top of the tax hikes, smoking bans and a social stigma that have made the cigarette business tougher.
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