Imps sees its sales damaged by Syria sanctions

Sanctions against war-torn Syria have hit sales at Imperial Tobacco, maker of JPS and Davidoff cigarettes, the firm said yesterday.

The troubled Middle East state is on the verge of civil war as President Assad attempts to crush a bloody uprising which has claimed thousands of lives. The European Union imposed sanctions on sales to individuals and businesses including Syria Duty Free, impacting sales of Gauloises and Gitanes.

Cigarette sales volumes fell 7 per cent year on year in the three months to 31 December, Imps said.

The firm also faced double-digit sales falls in Spain, which hiked cigarette taxes last year, and suffered in the US as it pushed through price increases last October.

In the Ukraine, one of its major distributors ran down stockpiles, buying fewer cigarettes. Stripping out these one-offs, sales volumes were down 1 per cent. Imps' update also revealed the growing chasm between financially struggling smokers in Europe and stronger economies elsewhere.

The firm's value brands increased share in EU markets but sales of luxury cigars leapt 14 per cent in emerging markets as Russian and Chinese smokers splashed out.

Alison Cooper, chief executive (pictured), said the group was "well placed" for 2012. The shares added 33p, to 2303p.