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By Martinne Geller
LONDON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - British American Tobacco reported on Wednesday an accelerated decline in the number of cigarettes sold, citing economic pressures on smokers around the world to rein in spending.
BAT’s shares fell after it joined other consumer goods makers that have been hit by cutbacks from cash-strapped consumers such as Reckitt Benckiser, Coca-Cola, Heineken and Nestle.
The maker of Pall Mall and Dunhill cigarettes said it sold 495 billion cigarettes in the nine months ended. Sept 30, a 1 percent fall from the year earlier, citing weakness in Russia, Vietnam, Brazil, Poland and Canada.
RBC Capital Markets said that the figure implied a worse-than-expected 2.2 percent drop for the third quarter, an acceleration from the 0.4 percent dip BAT reported for the first half.
“As far as it goes, this seems supportive of our concern that the economically driven market slowdowns we have seen in Western Europe over the last year might be making their way to emerging markets,” RBC analyst James Edwardes Jones said in a research note.
The global cigarette market is expected to shrink this year as more people quit smoking or switch to e-cigarettes and as a weak global economy curbs their ability to spend.
At 0842 GMT, BAT’s shares were down 4.5 percent at 3309 pence, helping drag the European consumer goods index down 0.85 percent. The broader European blue chip index was down nearly 0.5 percent.
“The trading environment remains challenging due to continuing pressure on consumer disposable income worldwide and the slow economic recovery in western Europe,” BAT said in a statement.
It added, however, that it was “on track to deliver another year of good earnings growth at constant rates of exchange”, as price increases on some brands offset competitive discounting and growth in the lower-priced segment in certain markets.
In the nine months ended Sept 30., revenue fell 9.6 percent, hurt by the weakening of various currencies relative to the British pound. Excluding the currency impact, however, revenue rose by 2.4 percent.
The company said volume sales were also being hurt by large excise-driven price increases, because many countries have been raising taxes on cigarettes in order to discourage smoking.
The World Health Organization this month approved guidelines urging countries to increase tobacco taxes. (Reporting by Martinne Geller in London; editing by Jason Neely and Jane Baird)