Tobacco giant Imperial says CEO stepping down

Cigarettes

LONDON -- British tobacco giant Imperial Brands, which recently warned of a backlash against vaping in the United States, said Thursday that Chief Executive Alison Cooper is stepping down.

Cooper, who served nine years as CEO and has been at Imperial for 20 years, will leave once her successor has been appointed, Imperial said in a statement that gave no reason for her departure.

"Alison has worked tirelessly and with great energy and passion... and the board would like to thank her for the tremendous contribution she has made," said Chairman Mark Williamson.

"During her tenure as chief executive, the business has been significantly simplified and reshaped to strengthen its long-term growth potential, and more than £10 billion ($12 billion, 11 billion euros) in dividends has been returned to shareholders."

The announcement comes one week after Imperial issued a gloomy profit warning, blaming the "challenging" next generation products market in the US, as well as a weaker performance from its Africa, Asia and Australasia division.

Imperial had cut its annual revenue growth forecast to 2.0 percent, from as much as 4.0 percent previously.

The company, which makes vaping brand blu as well as traditional cigarettes such as Davidoff, Gauloises and Winston, is also hunting for a new chairman to succeed Williamson.