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Philip Morris 2Q Net Rises 22% On Asia Volumes; 2011 View Up

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Philip Morris International Inc.'s (PM) second-quarter profit rose a better-than-expected 22% as strong sales volumes in Asia, particularly Japan, offset declines elsewhere. The company also raised its full-year earnings guidance by 15 cents a share, to $4.70 to $4.80. Strong demand in Asia continues to drive sales for the world's largest cigarette maker, which has reported improving earnings over the past year. Results were particularly strong in Japan after that country's March earthquake disaster hurt domestic competitors. Acquisitions have also helped boost the company's volumes recently. All of Philip Morris International's sales come from outside the U.S. The seller of brands such as Marlboro and L&M has relied an increasing amount on emerging markets to fuel sales as volumes decline in more established European markets. Political upheaval in North Africa and disaster in Japan hurt volumes earlier in the year, and the tobacco giant faces a looming threat from the Australian government, which wants to be the first in the world to restrict logos, branding, colors and promotional text on tobacco packets beginning in January. Philip Morris International posted a profit of $2.41 billion, or $1.35 a share, up from $1.98 billion, or $1.07 a share, a year earlier. Excluding tax and currency impacts, earnings were $1.34 a share, up from $1. Revenue rose 17% to $8.3 billion as volume ticked down 0.1%. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a $1.22 per-share profit on $7.86 billion in revenue. Volume rose 7.5% in Asia on strong sales in Indonesia, Japan and Korea. The European Union posted a 3.1% drop, mainly on lower numbers in Greece, Portugal and Spain. Volume declined 3.3% in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa and decreased 4.8% in Latin America and Canada. The company bought back 22.7 million shares of its common stock for $1.5 billion during the quarter. Shares closed at $68.19 Wednesday and were inactive premarket. The stock has climbed 37% over the past 12 months. -By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909;

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