October 18, 2018 / 11:33 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 3-Pricing boost helps Philip Morris quarterly results to beat estimates

* Quarterly earnings beat expectations

* Company maintains forecast for full year

* Future hopes pinned on tobacco-heating device (Adds share reaction, details on outlook)

By Martinne Geller

LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Philip Morris International , maker of Marlboro cigarettes, maintained its full-year guidance on Thursday after higher pricing helped it to report better than expected quarterly sales and profit.

Shares of the company rose 4.7 percent in New York, although the unchanged outlook signals weakness in the current fourth quarter.

"With full year guidance unchanged you will expect a give back," Jefferies analysts said in a note.

"Nonetheless, optically a 12 percent beat always looks good and it should support today."

Sales were helped by market share gains and pricing increases, the company said.

Philip Morris is pinning its hopes for the future on its IQOS device, which heats tobacco instead of burning it, thereby producing a vapour instead of smoke. It says this is less dangerous than smoking.

However, the company has previously cut its full-year forecast twice this year, citing currency fluctuations and slower IQOS sales.

Shares in Philip Morris also fell this week after rival British American Tobacco cut its full-year revenue target for cigarette alternatives such as vaping pens and tobacco heating devices, citing a flat market in Japan and a product recall in the United States.

Philip Morris stood by its 2018 forecast for diluted earnings per share of between $4.97 and $5.02 at prevailing exchange rates. Excluding currency fluctuations, it said its forecast represented growth in adjusted earnings of 8-9 percent.

The company expects sales to fall 5 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to the year earlier period, and earnings to be hurt by greater investment in its new IQOS models.

It reported third-quarter earnings per share of $1.44, ahead of $1.27 in the same period last year and analysts' average estimate of $1.28, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv.

Net revenue was $7.5 billion, up 0.4 percent, held back by currency fluctuations. Analysts had expected $7.17 billion.

Total volume of cigarette and heated tobacco units was 203.7 billion, down 2.1 percent. Excluding the impact of estimated distributor inventory movements, volume was up 1.1 percent, the company said.

The company said distributors in Japan reduced inventories of existing IQOS products ahead of the launch of new models of the device, which heats up small tobacco sticks.

Nonetheless, the company said worldwide sales of its heated tobacco units was set to almost double this year, and it continued to expect shipments of 41 billion to 42 billion units. (Reporting by Martinne Geller Editing by David Goodman/Keith Weir)

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