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Altria's CEO Szymanczyk's 2011 Pay Drops 51% To $11.8 Million

By John Kell Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Total pay for Altria Group Inc.'s (MO) Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Szymanczyk slid 51% to $11.8 million in 2011 from the prior year, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Szymanczyk, who earlier this year said he would retire in May from the tobacco company, received a nearly $10.8 million long-term incentive plan payment in 2010 related to a three-year cycled award system Altria utilizes. The award is based on an assessment of overall corporate and individual performance during the entire cycle period. Szymanczyk's base salary and stock awards grant value were also higher, while a change in pension value was lower. Long-term incentive plan payments issued to Vice Chairman Martin Barrington, who will succeed Szymanczyk, and other top paid executives in 2010 also resulted in lower total pay last year. Barrington, for example, was paid $4.2 million in 2011, 57% lower than the prior year. Altria's total shareholder return, from the beginning of 2008 through the end of 2011, was 63%, easily outperforming the S&P 500's total return of negative 6.3% and besting the S&P Food, Beverage and Tobacco Index 40% gain. An attractive dividend yield and strong cash flows has drawn investors to Altria and other tobacco stocks. In January, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes reported fourth-quarter earnings slid 9% due to several charges, though revenue jumped on strong volume growth for smokeless products and a modest increase in volume for cigarettes. Altria's shares were flat at $31.11 in recent trading. The stock is up 4.9% this year, underperforming the broader market's gain. -By John Kell, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2480;

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