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Philip Morris Seeks Name Change

NEW YORKPhilip Morris Cos., said yesterday it would ask shareholders to approve changing its name to Altria Group Inc. The food, beverage and tobacco maker, however, stressed that its operating companies, which include Philip Morris USA, Philip Morris International, Miller Brewing and Kraft Foods, will retain their current names.The new name will clear up confusion between the parent company and its tobacco operations, and better reflect its growth into a company that makes and sells products including Nabisco cookies, Miller beer and Kraft foods, said Geoffrey Bible, chairman and CEO of Philip Morris."We are not the same family of companies we were just a few years ago," Bible said in a statement. "The Nabisco acquisition and the Kraft initial public offering are the most recent evidence of our growth and evolution."Industry analysts had mixed reactions to the change. "The fact that they're changing the name suggests they believe there's a negative associated with the name. I don't believe there's any negative associated with the name," Martin Feldman, who tracks Philip Morris for Salomon Smith Barney, told the Associated Press. "I think thedifficulties the company faces are on the litigation and public policy front and I don't think the change of name is going to make any difference."Since Philip Morris is incorporated in Virginia, under state law shareholders must approve the name change. Shareholders would have to approve the name change by amajority vote at the next annual meeting, to be held in Richmond, Virginia on April 25, 2002, the company said.Altria is a coined term that comes from the Latin word for high -- "altus." The name was chosen to highlight the company's peak performance, said Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Steven Parrish.
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