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Imperial more upbeat as Spanish price war ends

Source: Reuters - Tue 1st Nov 2011

Imperial Tobacco , the world's fourth biggest cigarette group, was cautiously upbeat on Tuesday after the ending of a price war in Spain as it matched forecasts with a 5.1 percent rise in annual earnings.

Imperial is market leader in Spain with a near 30% share from brands like Fortuna and Ducados and it suffered a sharp fall in Iberian profits from the price war, but a cease fire in September is set to see its fortunes start to recover.

"Our commitment to sales excellence combined with effective cost and cash management will enable us to continue maximising returns to our shareholders," group Chief Executive Alison Cooper said in a annual results statement.

The Bristol-based group which also makes Gauloises, West, and Lambert & Butler cigarettes reported adjusted earnings rose to 188 pence a share for the year to end-September largely in line with 187.7p from a Reuters SmartEstimates and also a company-compiled consensus.

The annual dividend increased 13% to 95.1 pence a share raising its payout ratio from its earnings to 50.6%.

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