Marlboro maker Altria 1Q profit up about 16 pct

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. says its first-quarter profit rose about 16 percent as higher prices and lower expenses from a longstanding legal settlement offset a decline in cigarette sales.

The owner of the nation's biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, earned $1.38 billion, or 69 cents per share, for the January-March period, up from $1.19 billion, or 59 cents a share, a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 54 cents per share, beating Wall Street expectations by a penny.

Revenue, excluding excise taxes, decreased slightly to $3.97 billion. Analysts expected $4.03 billion.

Cigarette volumes fell about 5 percent. Volumes for its smokeless tobacco products rose about 3 percent, and cigar volumes fell 17 percent.

The Richmond, Va.-based company also said Thursday it plans to market an electronic cigarette.

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