Increased sales of rolling tobacco and a strong performance in emerging markets helped Imperial Tobacco to improved profits in its half-year results.

Pre-tax profits for the Lambert & Butler maker were up 7% for the six months to 31 March to £1.27bn.

Cigarette volumes fell by 1.4% over the period but that was partially offset by growth of 5% in rolling tobacco, where Imperial owns brands including Golden Virginia and Drum.

Total sales were up 2.2% to £13.7bn.

“Spain remains difficult but we made gains elsewhere in the EU and our growth in emerging markets outside the EU was excellent,” said chief executive Alison Cooper. “Our ongoing cost focus continues and disciplined investments are supporting the strong sales we are delivering in consumer growth segments.

She added: “I'm focused on maintaining our sales growth momentum and delivering a strong performance in the second half.”

Cooper also announced a £500m share buyback scheme that begins today.

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