CHICAGO (AP)/March 31, 2007 -- Kraft Foods Inc. became an independent company after the close of trading Friday, when Altria Group Inc. spun off its remaining stake in the world's second-largest food and drink company.

New York-based Altria Group Inc., which owns the tobacco companies that make Marlboro cigarettes, also owned an 88.9% stake in Kraft Foods Inc. Kraft makes its namesake cheeses, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Maxwell House coffee, Jell-O and Oreo cookies.

Kraft, based in Northfield, Ill., became a publicly traded company in 2001 and now will join the S&P 500 index.

Altria shareholders will receive about 0.69 of a Kraft share for each Altria share.

Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA, has said the split helps Kraft's ability to make acquisitions, while allowing managers to focus their respective businesses and giving both companies greater debt capacity.

Kraft planned to begin a two-year, $5 billion share repurchase program upon completion of the spinoff.

Company officials plan to be in New York Monday to ring the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange to mark Kraft's first day of trading as a fully independent company.

Philip Morris USA is the biggest cigarette maker in the nation, selling the Virginia Slims, Parliament and Basic brands in addition to Marlboro.

Analysts said the New York-based company could split its domestic and international Philip Morris tobacco divisions later this year.

Kraft shares rose 14 cents to close at $31.66 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. Altria shares gained 67 cents to $87.81 on the NYSE.

From the April 9, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash