By Anne Steele
Altria Group Inc. on Thursday reported profit and revenue growth as the tobacco company saw its cigarette shipments climb.
Earnings beat expectations and shares edged up 0.6% in light premarket trading to $61.90.
Chief Executive Marty Barrington pointed to strength in the company's core tobacco businesses. In its latest quarter, cigarette-shipment volume rose 1.2%.
Altria's cigarette market share edged up to 51.4% from 51.1% a year earlier, led by its discount brands as Marlboro retail share remained flat. The U.S.'s largest tobacco company, Altria is facing stronger competition from No. 2 player Reynolds American Inc., which last June closed a $25 billion acquisition of rival Lorillard Inc.
Altria's earnings rose to $1.22 billion, or 62 cents a share, from $1.02 billion, or 52 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding litigation costs and other special items, per-share earnings rose to 72 cents from 63 cents. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast earnings of 68 cents.
Net revenue after excise taxes was $3.92 billion, up from $3.72 billion a year earlier.
Altria reaffirmed its guidance for 2016 earnings of $3 to $3.05 a share, excluding restructuring charges.
On Tuesday, rival Reynolds American reported a 42% increase in first-quarter sales, driven the acquisition of Lorillard and its Newport cigarette brand.
Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com