BAT is still boosting its payout despite a decline in smoking

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The Independent Online

The cigarettes giant British American Tobacco still managed to fire up its rewards to shareholders despite a continued decline in smoking in western Europe and the United States.

British America Tobacco, the outfit behind brands such as Dunhill, Kent and Lucky Strike, did share buybacks of £750m last year and plans to raise that amount in 2012. The full-year dividend is also rising 11 per cent to 126.5p.

The company, which made 705 billion cigarettes last year, has seen smoking decline in western Europe and North America and offset that with higher prices and by making gains from growth in developing markets such as Brazil, Mexico, Romania and Russia.

Richard Burrows, the chairman, said: "The economic climate around the world is far from settled but we remain confident that our strategy should continue to generate growth for our shareholders in the years ahead."

BAT has not been immune from tough economies.

Higher prices meant that while underlying global volumes fell 0.4 per cent last year, revenue rose 3 per cent to £14.4bn.