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    Philip Morris Defends Name Change

    Letter to shareholders explains tobacco company's decision to change corporate identity to Altria Group Inc.

    NEW YORK -- Philip Morris Cos. Inc., which last November announced a proposal to rename itself Altria Group Inc., plans to send a letter explaining the change to a small number of shareholders.

    Philip Morris, whose operating companies include cigarette makers Philip Morris U.S.A. and Philip Morris International, food giant Kraft Foods Inc. and Miller Brewing Co., outlined the letter in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Reuters reported.

    "Philip Morris Companies Inc. is a great name that has served us well over many years," the filing said. "The decision to move ahead with a shareholder vote on the proposal to change the name of our parent company to Altria Group Inc. comes only after months of study, research and thoughtful discussion."

    In the proposed letter, Philip Morris acknowledged that "not every shareholder will agree with the recommendation and that some people will not like the choice for a new name."

    But the company said it has found that after "an initial period of adjustment," most understand and accept the reasons for the change and the name itself.

    Philip Morris defended the name change by saying it was an effort to clarify the identity of the corporate parent and make it clearer when reference is being made to the tobacco companies, which also carry the Philip Morris name.

    The names of the operating companies would not change under the proposal. For Philip Morris to become Altria Group, shareholders must approve the change by a majority vote at the upcoming annual meeting, scheduled for April 25, the report said.

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