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BAT Content with Hedging as Forex Effects Hit Profit

By Simon Zekaria LONDON--British American Tobacco PLC (BATS.LN) Wednesday said it remains content with its currency hedging strategy, even as weakness of major denominations in key emerging markets against a strong pound hit the tobacco giant's profit. The world's No. 2 tobacco company by sales earlier Wednesday posted a below-forecast rise in first-half net profit, on little-changed revenue, as headwinds from the Brazilian real, the euro, the South African rand and the Russian ruble eroded earnings. "Brazil, South Africa and Russia just happen to be three of our top five markets. Collectively, that is some fairly big currencies in our basket," Kingsley Wheaton, director of corporate and regulatory affairs, said in an interview. "We are doing everything we can [to mitigate risk]. We are hedged to a position we are comfortable with," Mr. Wheaton said. Mr. Wheaton added that currency exposure risk is par for the course in the a global business. "We had a very strong run on currency in the last few years. This time, it has turned the other way round." London-based BAT, which has just a very small share of the U.K. tobacco market, drives its income from developing economies, where rising incomes are bolstering sales. In the last fiscal year, it sold 705 billion cigarettes worldwide. At 0830 GMT, BAT shares were down 41 pence, or 1.2%, at 3267 pence. Write to Simon Zekaria at simon.zekaria@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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