Altadis Sees 9-Month Profit Rise 14%

Tobacco company Altadis said Friday its net profit rose more than 14 percent in the first nine months of the year, recovering from a price battle among cigarette producers.

The manufacturer of the Fortuna and Gitanes brands, which is being taken over by British-based Imperial Tobacco Group for 12.6 billion euros ($18.5 billion), said net profit grew to 387 million euros ($567 million) from euro339 million in the first nine months of 2006.

Revenue rose 2.7 percent to 3.02 billion euros ($4.42 billion) from 2.94 billion euros during the same period.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- Altadis' preferred measure of profitability -- rose 5.9 percent to 916 million euros ($1.34 billion), backed by the company's cost-cutting plan and cigarette price hikes.

The recovery also takes place as wider anti-smoking restrictions in core Spanish and French markets squeezed sales and profits last year.

Altadis shares were flat at 49.42 euros ($72.35) in early trading Friday. They have risen more than 27 percent this year, bolstered by Imperial Tobacco's imminent takeover.

Altadis shareholders will meet Dec. 18 to vote on the offer after the company's board recommended investors to accept the bid of 50 euros ($73.20) a share from Imperial, which is known for its Davidoff and West brand cigarettes.

Spanish-French Altadis is also the world's leading cigar distributor, through a 50-50 venture with the Cuban state-owned cigar company Habanos.