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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 11:04 GMT
Imperial not worried by smoke ban
Boxes of Imperial tobacco brand Lambert & Butler
Lambert & Butler is the UK's best-selling cigarette brand
The world's fourth-largest tobacco group, Imperial Tobacco, has said it does not expect UK smoking bans to have a significant impact on business.

Its comments came as it reported annual profits up 8% to 1.2bn ($2.3bn).

Imperial said it believed British smokers would continue to smoke "regardless of regulations".

Scotland has already introduced a ban on smoking in enclosed public places, and England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to follow next year.

Plant closure

Bristol-based Imperial, which is celebrating its 10th year as a listed company, said it gained market share across all its operating regions over the past 12 months.

Breakdown of Imperial's sales

Best known in the UK for its best-selling Lambert & Butler cigarettes and Golden Virginia rolling tobacco, its worldwide sales rose 7% in the year to September.

This produced revenues of 3.16bn, a 1% rise on the year before.

"We believe [UK] smokers will continue to choose to smoke regardless of regulations and our view is supported by experiences in other markets," said Imperial.

In the summer, Imperial said it was to close its Liverpool plant with the loss of all 140 jobs.

Its Liverpool operations are being transferred to sister factories in Nottingham and the Republic of Ireland, with the switch being completed by March next year.

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