Imperial in return to sales growth
IMPERIAL Tobacco, which sells John Player cigarettes here, set a £500m (€613m) share buyback and said it saw a return to sales growth and put many of its 2011 problems behind it.
The British company, which sells more than 340 billion cigarettes annually, reported that half-year earnings beat forecasts as it gained from the ending of a price war in Spain and the unwinding of destocking in the United States and Ukraine.
Chief executive Alison Cooper was upbeat despite two of its biggest markets, Britain and Spain, slipping back into recession, as it countered the downturn with cheaper cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco and a hike in prices of offerings aimed at affluent consumers.
Imperial shares have risen nearly 20pc over the last year as sales and cigarette volumes have started to come back.
"The tone from management is upbeat, with sales momentum building into H2 on the back of increased innovation," said analyst Dirk Van Vlaanderen at brokers Jefferies.
The group saw a return to sales growth in the first three months of 2012 with revenues ahead 8pc, putting its half year to end March sales rise at 3.3pc. (Reuters)