Divi pledge puffs Imperial Tobacco

Imperial Tobacco shares rose 3 per cent yesterday despite the maker of JPS, Davidoff and Lambert & Butler cigarettes saying it expected only modest growth in earnings next year.

Its chief executive Alison Cooper said the group will focus on developing its top brands, particularly in growing markets, while pushing up returns in mature ones. She predicted another dividend increase of at least 10 per cent in 2014 and said that while market conditions were tough the transformation of the business should provide growth from 2015. Operating profit rose 1 per cent to £3.1bn on revenues down 1 per cent at £28bn in the year to September. Pre-tax profits were flat at £2.6bn.

The dividend rises 10 per cent to 116p.4p. With a £500m share buyback, this means £1.6bn has now been returned to shareholders for the year.

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