Imperial Tobacco has named Alison Cooper as its new chief executive when veteran boss Gareth Davies steps down next May after 14 years at the helm.

Cooper – a cigar smoker – is currently chief operating officer at the tobacco giant, whose brands include West, Rizla and Golden Virginia. She stepped up to the newly-created role in March, having joined the group in 1999.

The news comes after Imperial announced a bumper rise in pre-tax profits of 52% for the year to 30 September to £945m, as total sales grew by almost a third to £26.5bn.

Volumes were down by 2% excluding the effect of its acquisition of Altadis earlier this year.

“I think the time is right for me to move up and let Alison take up the reins and take Imperial Tobacco to even greater heights,” said Davies, who has been with the company for 37 years. “Alison has the right skill set and it is great when you can have this type of succession.”

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