Altria offsets lower shipments with higher prices in Q1

Altria Group Inc. (MO) posted a decline in first-quarter profit, but earnings from continuing operations actually increased 5.4 percent to 39 cents a share from 37 cents a year earlier. The largest U.S. tobacco company had to walk a fine line in the quarter, increasing prices three times to help offset a drop in cigarette shipments related to an upcoming 62 cent per pack increase in the federal excise tax (FET) on April 1.

"Altria delivered solid business results in the first quarter in a challenging economic environment," said Michael E. Szymanczyk, Chairman and CEO of Altria. Results matched analyst estimates as compiled by Bloomberg, but beat Reuters' estimate by a penny.