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Altria Group Inc MO
Q3 2012 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 10/25/2012

Operator: Good day and welcome to the Altria Group 2012 Third Quarter Earnings Conference Call. Today's call is scheduled to last about one hour including remarks by Altria's management and a question-and-answer session. Representatives of the investment community and media on the call will be able to ask questions following the conclusion of the prepared remarks.

I will now like to turn the call over to Mr. Brendan McCormick, Vice President, Investor Relations for Altria Client Services. Please go ahead, sir.

Brendan J. McCormick - IR: Good morning, and thank you for joining our call. I'm joined this morning by Martin Barrington, Altria's Chairman and CEO, and Howard Willard, Altria's Chief Financial Officer. This morning we will only be discussing Altria's business results for the third quarter and first nine months of 2012, and will not be discussing the status of tobacco litigation.

Our remarks contain forward-looking and cautionary statements and projections of future results, and I direct your attention to the forward-looking and cautionary statement section at the end of our earnings release for the review of the various factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from projections. For a detailed review of Altria's business results, please review the earnings release that is available on our website, altria.com.

Altria reports its financial results in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Today's call will contain various operating results on both a reported and on an adjusted basis, which excludes items that affect the comparability of reported results.

Descriptions of these measures and reconciliations are included in the today's earnings press release and are available on our website. In addition, comparisons discussed in this conference call are to the same prior year period unless otherwise stated.

Now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Martin Barrington.

Martin J. Barrington - Chairman and CEO: Thanks Brendan. Good morning everyone and thank you for joining our call. Altria delivered solid financial results for the third quarter and first nine months of 2012. While taking steps to strengthen its ability to create shareholder value in the future.

Our tobacco businesses grew their adjusted operating companies income and expanded their margins for both the third quarter and first nine months of 2012. Each of our tobacco companies also grew their retail share for the same time periods while investing to develop their brands for the long-term. Products introduced in recent years continued to support these income and retail share gains.

Our tobacco companies remain focused on developing and commercializing innovative new products to meet the evolving preferences of adult tobacco consumers. The business performance of our operating companies enabled us to increase our already strong cash returns to shareholders. Altria increased its dividend by 7.3% in the third quarter, our 46th dividend increase in the last 43 years.

We also returned cash to shareholders by repurchasing over $260 million of our stocks during the quarter. Earlier today, we announced the $500 million expansion of our current $1 billion share repurchase program. We also took steps to enhance our capital structure during the quarter. We purchased high coupon debt and issued new lower cost debt. These actions reduced our 2018 and 2019 debt maturity towers, lowered our future interest expense, and reduced our weighted average coupon rate.

Read our Earnings Call Transcript disclaimer.
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