Last week, Philip Morris reported earnings for its fourth quarter as well as the full 2012 year. For the most part, the report indicated solid growth for the tobacco company, even in the face of some fairly significant economic headwinds. Volume increases of 1.3% were modest, as were revenue gains of just 0.9%. But the impact of the stronger dollar was definitely a key component of those lukewarm numbers, as Philip Morris said that excluding currency impacts and acquisitions, revenue jumped 5.6% over the previous year's results.
Earnings saw more substantial growth of about 7%, again with currency providing a drag on bottom-line growth as the figures excluding currency fluctuations were much higher at 11.7%. Dividend growth of more than 10% has become a staple of the tobacco company's stock, and share repurchases of $6.5 billion and new plans to spend $18 billion over the next three years on further buybacks show just how much free cash flow Philip Morris has to spend.
Drilling down to Philip Morris' segments, Europe saw much lower revenues, as tough economic conditions in the southern part of the continent weighed on the segment's results. But volume growth in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as in Asia, more than made up for the European Union's woes.
Looking forward, the company sees 10% to 12% growth in earnings for 2013. Part of those gains will come from an anticipated $300 million in cost-cutting measures and increased productivity.
The stock responded favorably to the news, and with signs that the dollar may finally start to weaken in 2013, Philip Morris is getting the year off on the right foot. With shares at all-time highs, Philip Morris may not be cheap, but it could still have further to run.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Philip Morris International.