US group Altria, parent of cigarette company Philip Morris and Kraft Foods said third quarter profit fell 43% from last year which included $1.7bn from the sale of its Miller brewing arm.

Group sales climbed 4.7% to $20.9bn from $20bn, while net income fell to $2.49bn from $4.36bn despite the $1.7bn sale of Miller to South African Breweries in May 2002.

Kraft - 84%-owned by Altria - said third quarter net income fell 6.8% on turnover that rose 3.7% to $7.5bn from $ 7.2bn.

CEO Louis Camilleri said worldwide food business results reflected “a particularly challenging quarter and the impact of our previously announced reinvestment programme to narrow price gaps and enhance brand equity in several key categories".

Turnover at Philip Morris USA, the maker of Marlboro, Parliament and Virginia Slims cigarettes fell 12% to $4.4bn. Internationally tobacco sales rose 17% to $8.9bn, helped by favourable exchange rates.