Altria Details Corporate Mission

CEO talks company mission and strategies, during annual shareholders meeting

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

RICHMOND, Va. -- During Altria Group Inc.'s annual meeting of shareholders, CEO Michael Szymanczyk updated shareholders on efforts around the company's mission. "Our mission is to own and develop financially disciplined businesses that are leaders in responsibly providing adult tobacco and wine consumers with superior branded products," he said, adding that those efforts are guided by four strategies:

Invest in leadership. Despite economic challenges, Szymancyzyk said Altria continued to hire, promote diversity and contribute to involvement programs--matching [image-nocss] employee contributions to non-profit organizations, encouraging volunteerism and being involved in other efforts.

Align with society. Szymancyzyk said the company has launched a refreshed code of conduct, as the cornerstone of its compliance program. "The code provides guidance to our companies' employees on how to approach our work and operate with integrity, and reinforces everyone's duty to speak up if they see something that doesn't meet that standard." Additional efforts include employee compliance training and enhanced regulatory affairs capabilities.

Satisfy adult consumers. Szymancyzyk detailed the company's introduction of new products, including four Marlboro "special blend" products, Marlboro Skyline Menthol, Copenhagen Long Cut Straight and Extra Long Cut Natural.

Create substantial value for shareholders. Szymancyzk said the company's business objectives are "designed to maximize long-term business performance" coupled with "conservative management of [its] balance sheet."

Szymanczyk also addressed the company's stance on acquisitions, during a question and answer session. "We acquired some companies here to really round out our tobacco portfolio, and we in the process wound up with another interest in the alcohol business," he said of the company's 2009 acquisition of UST Inc., a holding company whose primary businesses manufacture and market moist smokeless tobacco products through U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company and premium wines through Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

"And those are nice businesses and they offer a lot of potential for shareholders," he said, adding, "Right now, our focus is really on developing those businesses, growing them and taking the cash that we can develop out of them and returning it to shareholders. That's our focus, and I think that that will give the shareholders a nice return in the foreseeable future."

Richmond, Va.-based Altria directly or indirectly owns 100% of each of PM USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. LLC, John Middleton Co., Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd., and PMCC. Altria holds a continuing economic and voting interest in SABMiller plc.