Imperial Tobacco relied on growth in emerging markets as profits improved by more than 4% over the past year.

Operating profits at the Lambert & Butler maker grew to £2.64bn, while price hikes contributed to a rise in total sales of 3.7% to £29.22bn.

Tobacco volumes were down 1.5% for the year – a stronger performance than the 2% decline the company had warned of earlier in the year. And sales of the company’s four top brands – Davidoff, Gauloises Blondes, West and JPS – grew by 4% over the year.

“This good performance reflects the strength of our total tobacco portfolio,” said chief executive Alison Cooper.

“We mitigated the impact of difficult conditions in Spain with gains elsewhere in the EU and excellent growth in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East and Asia Pacific.”

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