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Altria Group's CEO Discusses Q4 2012 Results Good day and (inaudible) 2012 Fourth 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. (Operator Instructions) Representatives of the investment community and media on the call will be able to ask questions following the conclusion of the prepared remarks. I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Brendan McCormick, Vice President, Investor Relations, for Altria Client Services. Please go ahead, sir. Good morning and thank you for joining our call. I am joined this morning by Marty Barrington, Altria's Chairman and CEO and Howard Willard, Altria's Chief Financial Officer. This morning we will only be discussing Altria's 2012 business results for the fourth quarter and full year 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. 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 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. Before we begin I want to make you aware that high winds in the Richmond area have been causing interruptions to our phone service this morning. In the event we get disconnected, we have some backup plans in place and I ask for your patience. If you remain on the line, we will rejoin quickly. Now it gives me great pleasure to introduce Marty Barrington. Thanks Brendan. Good morning everyone. Altria delivered strong results and returns for its shareholders in 2012. Altria grew its full year adjusted diluted earnings per share by 7.8% behind the business performance of our operating companies, complemented by higher earnings from our equity investment in SABMiller. tobacco peers and the S 500's consumer staples sector, though not the S 500 index which delivered a total return of 16%. Altria's results were driven by effectively executing on our core strategies. First, our consumer products companies invested in strong premium brands that provide the foundation for future income growth. Each of our tobacco operating companies seek to grow income while maintaining modest share momentum for its core premium brands. Despite a continuing challenging external environment, our tobacco operating companies' premium brands had an excellent year as our companies continued investing for their long term success. These companies grew their adjusted operating companies' income and gained retail share in cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco for the full year of 2012. Beginning with the smokeable product segment, PM USA introduced Marlboro's new brand architecture in 2012 and supported Marlboro's four product families, red, gold, green and black with brand building activities throughout the year. These activities included expanded distribution of products and equity enhancing promotions to engage millions of adult smokers. PM USA also engaged adult competitive smokers with trial generating promotions as PM USA moderated as the year progressed. Behind these investments PM USA grew Marlboro retail share and strengthened the Marlboro brand. Middleton continued to enhance its product portfolio and new products contributed to its full year retail share gains. In smokeless product segment, Copenhagen and Skoal delivered solid volume growth and retail share gains on a combined basis for the full year. These results were primarily due to the ongoing contributions of Copenhagen long cut wintergreen and long cut straight and the expansion of Copenhagen southern blend. In wine, St. Michelle delivered solid volume growth through its continued emphasis on expanding distribution into off premise channels. Second, our companies continued to pursue product innovation. Products introduced in recent years by Marlboro, Black Mild and Copenhagen and Skoal gained retail share and contributed to the company's full year share growth in 2012. During the year, PM USA repositioned Marlboro black, expanded Marlboro NXT, a part of the Marlboro black family into additional geographies and introduced Marlboro 83s, part of the Marlboro red family in updated packaging. In 2012, Middleton continued to address adult cigar smokers interest in variety in seasonal cigar blends. Black Mild dark blend and Black Mild summer blend as well as with its 2012 third quarter introduction of Black Mild Jazz untip cigars into select states. In December 2012, the brand announced the plans to launch Black Mild Jazz, plastic tip and wood tip cigars nationally. STC expanded distribution of products, including Skoal, Ready Cut and Copenhagen Southern blend. Skoal Ready Cut offers adult long cut diverse great tastes in an innovative moist smokeless tobacco form. Copenhagen southern blend delivers a mellow taste in a manageable long cut form. Our companies also continued to support the development of spit free smokeless tobacco alternatives to cigarettes with the 2012 introduction of Verve discs into elite market and integrating it to develop innovative nicotine containing products with Okono AS. Third, our tobacco operating companies effectively managed costs in 2012. For the full year, cost management and higher pricing supported expansion of adjusted operating companies' income margins for the smokeable and smokeless products segments. Our companies made significant progress on our current cost reduction program by reducing head count, consolidating certain facilities, improving business processes and pursuing other savings. These actions with initiatives planned for 2013 as part of the program make us confident that we will achieve our goal of $400 million in annualized savings versus previously planned spending by the end of 2013. Finally, Altria maintained a strong balance sheet which enabled it to continue to deliver strong cash returns to shareholders. In 2012, Altria enhanced its capital structure by purchasing high coupon debt and issuing new lower cost debt. These actions reduced our 2018 and 2019 maturity towers, lowered future interest expense and reduced our weighted average coupon rate. Dividends contributed 5.8% to our 2012 total shareholder return of 11.8% as Altria maintained its target dividend payout ratio of approximately 80% of its adjusted diluted EPS and increased its dividend by 7.3% in August. As you know, Altria joined with the broad coalition of businesses, associations and shareholders to support making permanent the lower person tax rates on dividend income and maintaining parity between the tax treatment of dividends and capital gains. Congress and the President now have established dividend and capital gains tax rates for couples earning $450,000 or less between 0 and 15% and that 20% couple's earnings more than $450,000. We're pleased that parity has been retained between the tax treatment of dividends and capital gains. In addition to returning cash to shareholders through dividends, Altria repurchased $1.1 billion of its shares in 2012. We have $57 million remaining under the current $1.5 billion program and expect to complete the program by the end of the second quarter of 2013. In summary, in 2012 Altria continued its track record of delivering strong returns to shareholders. We achieved these results through disciplined execution of our core strategies and we believe that our 2012 performance including investments in our premium brands position us well for 2013 and beyond. Turning to 2013, while there are signs of modest improvement in certain economic indicators, we remain cautious about the business environment. Adult consumers remain under economic pressure as they face the end of the payroll tax holiday, as well as continuing high unemployment. And with a number of states facing budget shortfalls, tobacco products will remain a target for excise tax increases. Altria forecasts that its full year adjusted diluted EPS will increase by 6% to 9% to a range of $2.35 to $2.41 from a base of $2.21 in 2012. We also expect to achieve 2013 reported diluted EPS in the range of $2.34 to $2.40. Howard Willard, Altria's chief financial officer will now discuss Altria's business results in more detail. Thank you, Marty. Good morning everyone. The smokeable products segment's reported operating companies income results for the fourth quarter increased 25.9% primarily due to higher list prices, lower restructuring charges and lower charges related to tobacco and health judgements partially offset by higher promotional investments by PM USA behind Marlboro's new brand architecture and increased resolution expense. For the full year of 2012 reported operating companies' income for the segment increased 8.8% primarily due to higher list prices, lower restructuring charges, lower charges related to tobacco and health judgements and effective cost management, partially offset by higher promotional investments, increased resolution expense, unfavourable mix due to L volume growth and lower shipment volume. Adjusted operating companies' income, which is calculated excluding restructuring charges and tobacco and health judgments, increased 5.9% to $1.5 billion for the fourth quarter and 4.2% to $6.3 billion in the full year of 2012. For the fourth quarter and full year, adjusted operating companies' income margins for the smokeable product segment increased nine tenths of a percentage point to 39.9% to 41.2% respectively. PM USA's reported cigarette shipment volume increased 0.4% for the fourth quarter primarily due to retail share gains and one extra shipping day, partially offset by the industry's rate of decline. After adjusting for the extra shipping day and changes in trade inventories, PM USA's fourth quarter domestics cigarette volume was estimated to be down approximately 1%. For the full year PM USA's reported shipment volume decreased 0.2% primarily due to the industry's rate of decline, partially offset by volume growth as a result of retail share gains and one extra shipping day. When adjusted for an extra shipping day and changes in trade inventories, PM USA estimates that its full year domestic shipment volume was essentially unchanged, outperforming the estimated adjusted industry rate of decline of approximately 3%. Brand building initiatives to support Marlboro's new architecture contributed to the brand's retail share gains of one percentage point for the fourth quarter and six tenths of a percentage point for the full year. Marlboro's retail share was 42.6% for both the fourth quarter and full year. These gains were complemented by L growth in discount. PM USA's discount products gained three tenths of a percentage point to deliver a 3.9% retail share for the fourth quarter and five tenths of a percentage point for a 3.8% share for the full year. PM USA's total retail share grew 1 percentage point to 49.8% for the fourth quarter and an eight tenths of a percentage point to 49.8% for the full year.