From: Reuters
Published March 11, 2008 10:56 AM

Altria units set post-spinoff long-term targets

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Philip Morris International expects earnings per share to rise 10 percent to 12 percent annually in the long-term after the cigarette company gets spun off from Altria Group Inc <MO.N> later this month, it said on Tuesday.

At the same time, Altria said its remaining businesses -- Marlboro cigarette maker Philip Morris USA and a 28.6 percent stake in beer maker SABMiller PLC <SAB.L> -- should post long-term annual earnings per share growth of 8 percent to 10 percent.

The forecasts came in a news release ahead of an analysts' meeting to lay out plans for the companies after the March 28 spinoff of Philip Morris International.

Altria reiterated previous 2008 forecasts for the two businesses. It still expects its remaining business' earnings per share from continuing operations to increase 9 percent to 11 percent, while Philip Morris International's should rise 12 percent to 14 percent.

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The previously announced spinoff of Philip Morris International will give investors a direct play in the faster-growing international business. The remaining Altria business generates a large amount of cash, but is tied to the declining U.S. cigarette market.

Altria previously said it planned to repurchase $7.5 billion of its stock over two years, beginning in April, and have an initial annual dividend rate of $1.16 a share. Philip Morris International will have a $13 billion share buyback program, expected to begin in early May, and pay an initial dividend rate of $1.84 a share.

Altria shares traded at $75.60 in premarket trading, up from Monday's New York Stock Exchange close of $74.74.

At Monday's close, the stock was down about 1 percent this year, compared with an 11.5 percent drop in the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI>.

(Reporting by Brad Dorfman, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Lisa Von Ahn)

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