(Updates stock price in seventh paragraph.)
Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Altria Group Inc., the largest seller of tobacco in the U.S., promoted Vice Chairman Martin J. Barrington to chief executive officer as Michael E. Szymanczyk retires.
Barrington, who also will become chairman, has held various positions since 1993, including general counsel of the U.S. and international tobacco units, Altria said in a statement today. David Beran, 57, vice chairman for business operations, was named president and chief operating officer.
Barrington, 58, will take over as Altria’s top-selling Marlboro cigarettes lose smokers to less-expensive brands, leading to a 0.7 percentage point drop in market share to 41.6 percent in the quarter. Shipment declines by Altria’s Philip Morris USA, which makes about half of the cigarettes sold in the U.S., deepened after the federal government boosted taxes by 62 cents a pack in 2009.
The promotions of Barrington and Beran bring “a unique and balanced approach to the management of the business,” Vivien Azer, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. in New York, wrote today in a note to clients. She rates Altria “neutral.”
Szymanczyk’s retirement will be effective after the annual shareholders’ meeting in May.
Altria also forecast 2012 earnings per share of $2.17 to $2.23, excluding some items, up as much as 9 percent from last year. Analysts projected $2.19, the average of 13 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Altria dropped 1.8 percent to $28.14 at the close in New York. The Richmond, Virginia-based company’s shares gained 20 percent last year.
The company announced in October plans to cut 15 percent of its cigarette-related salaried jobs as shipments of Marlboro and other brands tumbled.
--With assistance from Cecile Daurat in Wilmington. Editors: Kevin Orland, James Callan
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