Tobacco giant Imperial Brands has said the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on customer buying habits, but has still reported a “good start” of the year.
The Gauloises and Rizla owner held firm on its trading forecasts for the year as it said sales so far in 2021 have been “in line with our expectations”.
It told investors on Tuesday that profitability is also on track to hit its guidance from its previous update in November, with organic operating profit growth in the “low to mid single digits”.
Imperial said net revenue in the half-year to March is expected to grow by at least 1%, as it has benefited from higher tobacco prices.
In tobacco, the group said it has grown its aggregate market share across its five key markets.
It stressed that it has seen particularly strong gains in the UK, US and Spain more than offset declines it has seen in its tobacco operations in Germany and Australia.
The update comes two months after new chief executive Stefan Bomhard laid out a new five-year strategy focused on growth across these five core markets.
He said it will also try to target further growth in vaping in the US, and tobacco-heating products in Europe.
In the update to the London Stock Exchange, the company said it has “significantly” reduced losses for its new products arm, which includes vaping products.
Overall tobacco volumes are in line with Imperial’s forecasts, although it said the pandemic is continuing to “affect consumer buying patterns across different channels and markets”.
Shares in the company were 1.8% lower at 1,484.2p in early trading.