Profits grew by 5% at British American Tobacco in the past year to £4.32bn.

Sales were up by 3% on an organic basis in the year to 31 December 2010 and by 5% overall, reaching a new high of £14.88bn.

The company said volumes of its four ‘global drive’ brands, which include Lucky Strike and Pall Mall, grew by 7% over the year. But a booming illegal tobacco trade had damaged sales in markets including Eastern Europe, BAT warned.

Chairman Richard Burrows said the business was “in very good shape at the end of 2010”.

“We have increased our competitiveness by growing our share in key markets and improving our cost base,” he said. “There will be further global economic challenges ahead but we can see strong opportunities for growth too.”

The results mark the farewell of outgoing chief executive Paul Adams, who is retiring. He will be replaced on 1 March by Nicandro Durante.

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British American Tobacco boss Barry Cann steps behind the counter (Convenience Store; 26 November 2010)
Tobacco giant names new chief exec (24 June 2010)