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Imperial Brands says U.S. cigarette volume down 6.4%

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(Reuters) – British tobacco company Imperial Brands Plc said on Wednesday U.S. industry volumes fell 6.4% in the four weeks to May 18, smaller than the 11.2 percent decline that research firm Nielsen’s data showed on Monday.

The Nielsen report had pushed down shares of Imperial Brands, British American Tobacco and Altria between 1% and 3% on Tuesday.

Imperial Brands said late on Wednesday that its figures were based on data from MSAi, which compiles data from over 300,000 stores, representing at least 95% of U.S. tobacco volumes.

The company also said it expects U.S. industry volumes to fall between 4.5% and 5% in 2019, close to larger rival Altria’s forecast of a 4%-5% drop.

Analysts from Wells Fargo estimate a 6% drop in volumes in 2019.

“Higher adoption of e-cigarettes, led by Juul, was a key factor in the declines of cigarette volumes,” Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog wrote in a note on Tuesday.

Imperial’s shares hit an eight-year low of 1,940.4 pence in trading on Wednesday and stock closed down 2.1% at 1,957.8 pence. BAT closed down 2.7% at 2,714.72 pence.

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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