Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Imperial Reports Lower Profit, to Raise $10 Billion

Imperial Tobacco Group Plc reported a 45 percent drop in first-half profit on costs for buying Altadis SA and said it will sell stock worth 4.9 billion pounds ($10 billion) to current investors to help fund the takeover.
Net income dropped to 233 million pounds in the six months through March from 421 million pounds a year earlier, the Bristol, England-based company said today in a statement. That missed the 370 million-pound median estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Imperial agreed to buy Madrid-based Altadis in July of last year, months after unveiling the acquisition of U.S. cigarettes maker Commonwealth Brands. Most of the Spanish company's sales come from its domestic market and France, adding to its allure for Imperial, which is expanding in new locations because its main U.K. and German markets are shrinking.
``The focus will be to see how Altadis is performing,'' Rogerio Fujimori, an analyst at Credit Suisse in London, said yesterday. The takeover gave Imperial, Europe's second-largest cigarettes maker, cigarette brands including Gauloises and the world's largest manufacturer of cigars.

Investors will have the right to buy one new share for every two held as of May 15, said Imperial, the maker of Lambert & Butler and Davidoff cigarettes. It will sell 338.7 million new shares for 1,475 pence each, 44 percent less than yesterday's closing price in London trading.
Imperial rose 16 pence, or 0.6 percent, to 2,618 pence in London yesterday. The stock has slipped 3.5 percent in 2008, while larger competitor British American Tobacco Plc, the maker of Pall Mall cigarettes, is little changed.
The cigarette maker had said costs related to the Altadis purchase would lop 110 million pounds from first-half profit. The drop in earnings is ``all because of this exceptional charge,'' Fujimori said.
Imperial had said it would sell as much as 5 billion pounds of stock by July to help finance the takeover and retain its investment-grade credit rating. The company has raised its stake in Logista, the Spanish cigarette distributor controlled by Altadis, to about 97 percent following an offer to minority investors this month.