Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc.'s net income rose in the third quarter partly on lower costs and tax benefits, even as it sold fewer cigarettes.
The parent company of Philip Morris USA, the nation's largest U.S. cigarette maker, also lifted its guidance for 2010 net income, citing the tax benefits, while it maintained its full-year adjusted earnings outlook.
Altria reported Wednesday that it earned $1.13 billion, or 54 cents a share, for the period ending Sept. 30. That's up from $882 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier.
The results beat analysts' forecast of 52 cents a share. The estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters usually remove one-time items.
Asset impairment, exit, integration and implementation costs declined to a penny per share from 6 cents per share.
The company, based in Richmond, Va., said increased earnings from its equity stake in SABMiller PLC and tax benefits of $33 million also pushed its results higher.
Net revenue excluding excise taxes climbed 3 percent to $4.46 billion from $4.32 billion mostly on higher prices, surpassing Wall Street's $4.42 billion.
Altria's Philip Morris USA sold 2.4 percent fewer cigarettes than a year ago, though cigarette revenue rose, helped by higher prices.
For the full year, Altria now expects net income in a range of $1.83 to $1.87 per share. Its prior prediction was for net income between $1.81 and $1.85 per share.
The company, which also sells Black & Mild cigars and Copenhagen and Skoal smokeless tobacco products reiterated its 2010 adjusted earnings outlook of $1.87 to $1.91 per share.
Analysts foresee earnings of $1.89 per share for the year.
Altria said it saved $80 million during the quarter, with plans to save about $210 million more by 2011's end.
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