Philip Morris International 3Q Profit Beats Street

Marlboro cigarette maker Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) said Thursday that its third-quarter profit soared 31% as it sold more products in the Middle East and Asia and raised prices.

The New York-based manufacturer of tobacco products reported net income of $2.38 billion, or $1.35 a share, compared with $1.82 billion, or 99 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding special items, the company earned $1.37 a share, much ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of $1.24.

Revenue for the three-month period was $8.36 billion, up 26% from $6.6 billion a year ago, trumping the Street’s view of $7.56 billion. Cigarette volume climbed 4.4% during the period.

Reflecting the strong performance, Philip Morris lifted by five cents the lower end of its earlier fiscal forecast, now expecting earnings in the range of $4.70 to $4.80 a share. Wall Street is predicting a profit of $4.74.

“While we benefited from a relatively undemanding comparison, our results this quarter were simply superb on each and every key performance measure,” said Philip Morris CEO Louis Camilleri. “Our business in Japan was a key driver of our stellar results, but elsewhere we enjoyed very solid growth and improving trends in virtually all geographies.”

Philip Morris International, which is the world’s second-biggest cigarette company, saw sales is Japan falter slightly after the March earthquake and tsunami in the island nation. However, it was able to avoid catastrophic losses because its manufacturing facilities are located outside the country and its shipments continued as usual.

By shipment volume, Philip Morris reported a 12.6% increase in Asia, followed by a 5.1% in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The gains helped to offset declines in the European Union, Latin America and Canada.

Total cigarette shipments of its key brand Marlboro climbed 3.9% during the period to 78.9 billion, led by 10.2% growth in the Middle East and Africa.