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Altria prices offset cigarette volume declines But the maker of Marlboro, Parliament and Virginia Slims said earnings from continuing operations rose 15 percent and it confirmed its full-year profit forecast. "Because of the economic uncertainties we all face, Altria is taking steps now to continue adding value to shareholders over the long term," Chief Executive Michael Szymanczyk said. One of the ways Altria -- owner of No. cigarette maker Philip Morris USA -- will expand is acquiring UST Inc., maker of Copenhagen and Skoal. But because of difficulties in the credit market, Szymanczyk said it had become more expensive to finance the acquisition. The deal passed antitrust review last month, and the company plans to schedule a special meeting in December to let shareholders vote on it. Szymanczyk expects the deal to close no later than the first week of January. Altria also reported net income of $867 million, or 42 cents per share, in the quarter that ended Sept. 30. That compares to $2.63 billion, or $1.24 per share, a year earlier. Richmond, Va.-based Altria, which spun off the international business in March, said revenue rose 5 percent to $5.24 billion. Revenue and income from continuing operations rose even as cigarette shipment volume declined because of higher cigarette prices and lower overall costs for running the business. Corporate expenses fell 43 percent in the quarter, Szymanczyk said. Excluding one-time costs, Altria said its per-share profit from continuing operations was 46 cents per share, beating Wall Street's consensus estimate by 2 cents. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, who typically exclude one-time costs, expected earnings of 44 cents per share on revenue of $4.21 billion. The tobacco company reaffirmed its 2008 profit forecast of $1.63 to $1.67, which represents growth of 9 percent to 11 percent. Altria said its third-quarter results also reflect lower earnings from its stake in beer maker SABMiller, losses at Philip Morris Capital Corp. and higher taxes. tobacco companies, is focusing on cigarette alternatives -- such as cigars, snuff and chewing tobacco -- for future sales growth as domestic cigarette consumption declines by 3 percent to 4 percent a year. The volume of PM USA's cigarette shipments fell 4.8 percent during the quarter from a year ago. Further, the company said in a statement that it can "no longer accurately predict estimated future cigarette industry decline rates and PM USA is no longer providing this guidance." "There is no doubt a concern in the short run that consumers could slow their purchases or trade down due to the economic weakness, taxes could go higher in some states, and perhaps a federal excise tax increase could take hold," Stifel Nicolaus Co. analyst Christopher Growe told investors. "While we acknowledge these risks, we also look to what we view as the cheap valuation and the strong underlying fundamentals as support of our 'Buy' rating." The company continues to test market Marlboro moist smokeless tobacco in the Atlanta metropolitan area as well as Marlboro Snus in Dallas and Indianapolis. Snus are small, teabag-like pouches that users stick between their cheek and gum.