RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Altria's fourth-quarter profit dropped 56 percent as the Marlboro maker sold fewer cigarettes and recorded charges related to paying off debt early.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Altria's fourth-quarter profit dropped 56 percent as the Marlboro maker sold fewer cigarettes and recorded charges related to paying off debt early.

The owner of the nation's biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, posted earnings Thursday of $488 million, or 24 cents per share. That's down from $1.1 billion, or 55 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 57 cents per share, missing Wall Street expectations by a penny.

Altria Group Inc., based in Richmond, Va., said that revenue, excluding excise taxes, fell 1 percent to $4.4 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected $4.5 billion.

Cigarette volumes fell about 6 percent to 31.8 billion cigarettes. Volumes of its premium Marlboro brand fell 5.7 percent. Smokeless tobacco volumes fell 4.3 percent.