Altria Group raises forecast for 2006

New York - Altria Group Inc., majority owner of Kraft Foods and maker of Marlboro cigarettes, on Thursday lifted its 2006 financial forecast to reflect a $1 billion tax-related benefit and the just-announced sale of Kraft's Milk-Bone pet food brand. Altria projected 2006 earnings between $5.25 and $5.35 per share, up from a previous range of $4.85 to $4.95 per share. The company owns the Philip Morris tobacco business and an 87 percent stake in Kraft. The $1 billion non-cash benefit stems from the reversal of tax reserves after the Internal Revenue Service reviewed Altria's tax returns from 1996 to 1999. Altria reported that it will record the transaction in the first quarter.