Philip Morris USA parent Altria Group Inc posted quarterly profit that beat analysts estimates as its share of the smokeless tobacco market stabilized, while the company saw a sharp drop in cigarettes shipped.

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes and Skoal smokeless tobacco said third-quarter profit was $882 million, or 42 cents a share, compared with $867 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 48 cents a share. Analysts on average forecast 46 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The federal cigarette tax rose to $1.01 a pack on April 1 from 39 cents. Also, in June, a law that gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco took effect.

Many tobacco companies, including Altria, raised prices to compensate for the higher tax.

Altria shares rose nearly 1 percent to $18.83 in premarket trading from Tuesday's New York Stock Exchange close of

(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)