(Alliance News) - British American Tobacco PLC is maintaining its 2024 guidance even as the cigarette producer grapples with "macro-economic pressures" and "illicit" trade, while carrying on with its investment in the US.

In an address at the annual general meeting held on Wednesday, Chair Luc Jobin said the company was making "targeted" investment choices to drive its "medium-term sustainable growth".

For 2024, BAT continues to expect delivery in line with its guidance of low-single digit organic growth in revenue and adjusted profit from operations, Jobin told shareholders.

His audience included Tadeu Marroco, who attended his first AGM as the chief executive officer, and two new board members: Murray Kessler and Serpil Timuray.

The London-based maker of cigarettes and vapes released its financial results for 2023 early in February, which Jobin described on Wednesday as "resilient".

Revenue fell 1.3% to GBP27.28 billion in 2023 from GBP27.66 billion in 2022. Pretax loss was GBP17.06 billion, swung from a profit of GBP9.32 billion a year prior.

Jobin said on Wednesday 2023 was a year of "resilient" financial performance that delivered in line with the group's guidance.

New Categories business, he said, turned profitable two years ahead of the original target and contributed to a GBP398 million increase to profit. Adjusted organic profit from operations was up 3.9% at constant rates of exchange.

Jobin said BAT expects its 2024 performance to be driven by continued investment in US; persistent macro-economic pressures and illicit single-use vapes in the US; and the phasing of rejuvenated innovation pipeline, including glo Hyper Pro and new consumables.

Beyond 2024, BAT expects a "progressive" improvement in performance which, by 2026, should allow it to achieve 3% to 5% organic revenue growth and mid-single digit adjusted profit growth from operations, the chair said.

As part of its latest share buyback, BAT has acquired stock worth GBP700 million this year, with a further GBP900 million committed for 2025.

This programme comes after BAT last month sold 436.9 million shares in ITC Ltd, a Kolkata-based conglomerate with businesses across the consumer goods sector in India, netting GBP1.57 billion. BAT retains a 25% stake in ITC following the disposal.

Shares in BAT were up 0.6% to 2,373.00 pence each on Wednesday afternoon in London, while they were 0.6% higher at ZAR565.61 each in Johannesburg.

By Artwell Dlamini, Alliance News reporter

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