Slovakia's sole tobacco producer, Slovak International Tabak (SIT), 100-percent owned by Germany's Reemtsma Zigarettenfabriken Hamburg, said its after-tax profit in 1997 rose to 329.6 million crowns ($9.42 million) and almost tripled the 1996's figure of 113.92 million. SIT spokesman Jozef Banáš also said the company's overall sales rose to 6.95 billion cigarettes in 1997, slightly up from 6.8 billion cigarettes in 1996. About 4.46 billion were sold in Slovakia, while 2.48 billion were exported to SIT's only foreign market, the Czech Republic. Banáš said the company's 1998 results were likely to be significantly lower due to an increase in local consumer taxes on tobacco and tobacco products, in force since the beginning of this year. "Our original forecast showed that overall sales of legal cigarettes on the Slovak market would decline by around 46 percent in the first quarter of this year, but the actual figure may be even lower," he said.