Imperial back to sales growth

Smokers staying loyal to their favourite brands despite price hikes and an increase in Chinese demand for cigars helped Imperial Tobacco post a surprise jump in revenues yesterday.

The maker of Lambert & Butler cigarettes saw a return to sales growth in the first three months of 2012 with revenues up 8 per cent. That saw its total revenues for the half year to April rise 3.3 per cent to £3.4bn. Its chief executive, Alison Cooper, said revenues at Imperial's biggest brands grew 12 per cent, while Cuban cigar sales rose 8 per cent, fuelled by growth in China, Russia and the Middle East.

Imperial, which sells more than 340 billion cigarettes a year, also benefited from the end of a price war in Spain.