Sales were stable compared to the previous year, and operating profit was up 27%. This growth follows the reduced cost structure since Imperial announced to lift its foot in the NGP category - the "Next Generation Products", such as vaping and chewing tobacco or heating - to refocus on fuels.

However, it has not completely abandoned its ambitions in this area - as evidenced by the relative success of blu in the French market - even if this segment remains marginal in its portfolio of activities. In the UK, for example, Imperial has a 41% market share in fuels, but only 9% in NGPs.

The group generates two-thirds of its operating profits in Western Europe and the United States. Volumes sold in these markets are declining steadily, but the group remains a formidable cash-machine, able to generate £3 billion in free cash flow last year.

Terminal decline or not, over the last decade, price increases and the acquisition of certain Lorillard assets have enabled Imperial to grow its turnover from £14.6 to £17 billion, its operating profit from £2.8 to £3.2 billion, and its cash profit from £2 to £3 billion.

Ten years of being given up for dead, ten years of beating the odds: like British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and JTI, Imperial has shown astonishing resilience. The performance may surprise. But what will happen over the next decade?

The current market capitalization represents a multiple of x5.5 cash earnings - this for a group that delivers a 60% return on equity. The enterprise value, which includes net debt, of x9-x10 said cash profit.

The share price is back to where it was 15 years ago, while profits and dividends have tripled in the meantime. The group intends to maintain the latter - as it stands, largely covered by cash flow - and to accelerate its share buybacks.