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BAT First-Quarter Earnings Up 10%, Warns on Full-Year Growth

British American Tobacco beat forecasts with a 10% rise in first-quarter earnings, boosted by a strong performance in Brazil and South Africa, but said the weak U.S. dollar would hold back full-year growth.

The world's second-biggest cigarette maker, which makes Lucky Strike, Kent, Dunhill and Pall Mall cigarettes, said on Thursday it made adjusted earnings per share of 24.31 pence in the first three months of 2007.

Forecasts ranged from 21.5 pence to 23.5 pence in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts.

"The first quarter has been somewhat flattered by excellent performances in Brazil and South Africa," Chairman Jan du Plessis said in a statement.

"Looking ahead, it is worth remembering that earnings per share benefited from a number of one-off factors in the second quarter of 2006. For the year as a whole, adverse exchange rates are expected to hold back our earnings per share growth."

BAT makes nearly 40% of its earnings in U.S. dollars, and the currency fell around 12 percent against sterling in the first quarter of this year.

BAT shares closed at 1,570 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at about 32 billion pounds ($64.1 billion).

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