BAT slips on buyback disappointment, sees Russia exit this year

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By Sinchita Mitra and Muhammed Husain

(Reuters) - British American Tobacco forecast a small rise in 2023 earnings on Thursday and dashed hopes of a share buyback, sending its shares down as much as 6%, as it also pledged to complete the sale of its Russian and Belarusian businesses this year.

The maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes and Glo heated tobacco said it expected a mid-single digit percentage increase in earnings per share this year in constant currencies. Analysts are currently expecting a 6.2% rise, according to Jefferies.

The company also did not announce a new share buyback programme, as widely anticipated by analysts.

BAT had in February last year announced a buyback worth up to 2 billion pounds ($2.4 billion).

"The company is taking a 'pragmatic' approach to capital allocation given macroeconomic, regulation, and litigation uncertainties, as well as higher interest rates," JP Morgan said in a note.

BAT is restructuring its management and operations, and last month said it would reduce the number of regions in its business from four to three and expand its management roles.

The group forecast on Thursday its 2023 revenue would rise 3-5% in constant currency terms, adding growth would be affected by the sale of its businesses in Russia and Belarus.

Its shares were down 4.4% at 1000 GMT.

BAT said it was in advanced discussions with a "joint management distributor consortium" on the sale of its businesses in Russia and Belarus, but did not reveal the identity of the party or divulge further details on the talks.

The company's distributor in Russia, SNS Group of Companies, said in March last year BAT was in talks to transfer its Russian business to SNS.

($1 = 0.8262 pounds)

(Reporting by Sinchita Mitra and Muhammed Husain in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Mark Potter)