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Altria 2nd-Quarter Net Doubles on Higher Prices; Co Raises Year View

By Melodie Warner Altria Group Inc.'s (MO) second-quarter earnings more than doubled as higher prices increased the tobacco company's revenue faster than expected. The company also raised the low end of its full-year adjusted earnings estimate by two cents, now projecting a range of $2.19 to $2.23 a share. The maker of Marlboro cigarettes has seen its revenue challenged by declining cigarette volumes. But its earnings have generally improved due to increased demand for its smokeless-tobacco products, such as Copenhagen. Altria reported a profit of $1.23 billion, or 60 cents a share, up from $444 million, or 21 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding items such as asset impairment, exit, integration and implementation costs, earnings rose to 59 cents from 54 cents. Revenue, excluding excise taxes, jumped 14% to $4.58 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently forecast earnings of 57 cents on revenue of $4.48 billion. Revenue from cigarettes edged up 0.8%, primarily due to higher list prices. The volume of its Marlboro cigarettes slipped 0.8%, while other premium-cigarette volume declined 8.4% and discount-cigarette volume jumped 24%. Smokeless products revenue jumped 5.4%, reflecting higher volume and pricing. Shares closed Monday at $35.49 and were inactive premarket. The stock has gained 35% over the past year. Write to Melodie Warner at melodie.warner@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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