Imperial Tobacco Earnings Increase 8%


LONDON -- Imperial Tobacco (ISE: IMT.L) announced its preliminary full-year results this morning, with the share price rising more than 2% at the time of writing on the positive news.

The company revealed an increase of 8% in earnings growth at constant currency to 201 pence from 2011's earnings per share of 188 pence, while the tobacco adjusted operating margin was maintained at 42%.

Net revenue was up 4% across Imperial's portfolio to 7,005 million pounds compared to the previous year's figure of 6,913 million pounds, with key strategic brands of Davidoff, Gauloises Blondes, West, and JPS gaining 13%; fine cut tobacco advancing 13% as well; and premium cigars jumping 10%.

Management highlighted "strategic investments" as driving quality growth for the company, with chief executive Alison Cooper commenting:

We're generating high-quality growth by investing in total tobacco brands that will deliver long-term sustainable sales... Our portfolio offers consumers unrivalled choice and provides significant opportunities for further growth. Our focus on realizing this growth potential, whilst effectively managing cost and cash, will continue to maximize value for our shareholders.

Stick equivalent volumes did fall 2.7%, due to "ongoing market weakness in Ukraine and Poland and compliance with international trade sanctions in Syria." However, overall, Imperial met its full-year forecast, and shareholders ought to be pleased with the planned dividend of 105.6 pence per share, up 11% from 2011's 95.1 pence.

The shares are currently sitting around the 2,375 pence mark, continuing their steady increase having plunged to as low as 1,432 pence in the depths of the financial crisis in 2009. With today's preliminary results announcing yet another increase in Imperial's payout ratio, to 52.5%, investors will continue to see the tobacco company as a very decent income share.

Indeed, shares in Imperial Tobacco form a significant part of the holdings of Neil Woodford, the City analyst who manages to beat the FTSE year after year. As such, his choices are well worth taking a look at.

If you want to learn more of his investments, then the free Motley Fool report "8 Shares Held by Britain's Super Investor" lists in detail seven of Woodford's favored companies, on top of Imperial. It will only be available for a limited period, so click here to get your copy delivered to your inbox.

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