Lorillard 4Q Profit Grows on Stronger Prices, Volumes

Helped by improved retail market share, Lorillard (NYSE:LO) reported on Monday a stronger-than-expected 7% increase in fourth-quarter profit, leading the company to book record annual sales and earnings.

The Greensboro, NC-based company posted net income of $259 million, or $1.74 a share, compared with $242 million, or $1.52, in the same quarter last year, missing average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of $1.67 a share.

Revenue for the cigarette maker was $1.02 billion up from $932 million a year ago, virtually matching the Street’s view of $1 billion.

Sales were fueled by higher volumes and prices, partially offset by promotional costs. The company saw its highest ever retail market share of 12.9%.

"Lorillard continued to fire on all cylinders during the fourth quarter leading to record annual results in net sales, net earnings, earnings per share and retail market share," said Murray S. Kessler, the company’s chief executive.

Earnings were also assisted by its share repurchase program. Lorillard, which manufactures Newport, Kent and Maverick cigarettes, bought back $285 million of its shares during the quarter, brining total 2010 repurchases to $716 million.