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BAT to expand ‘glo’ smokeless tobacco sales in Japan from July

British American Tobacco (BAT) will expand sales of its “glo” tobacco-heating device to Tokyo and Osaka from July and roll it out nationwide by year-end, intensifying a battle with Philip Morris International for a share of Japan’s vaping market.

http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/05/30/bat-to-expand-glo-smokeless-tobacco-sales-in-japan-from-july/

Big tobacco firms are investing in alternative products as more people give up traditional cigarettes amid health concerns.

Japan has emerged as a popular testing ground, mainly for “heat not burn” tobacco devices, given e-cigarettes using nicotine-laced liquid are not permitted under the country’s regulations.

In fact, both glo and Philip Morris’ vaping device “iQOS” were launched in Japan and have limited sales outside.

Glo has been on sale in the northeastern city of Sendai since December and iQOS was rolled out across the country in April 2016. According to their manufacturers, the products have been so popular in Japan that supply has fallen short.

BAT, known for Kent and Lucky Strike cigarettes, will start selling glo in the western Japanese city of Osaka, Miyagi in the country’s northeast and Tokyo from July 3, its Japan president Roberta Palazzetti said.

“Our ambition is to be a leader in next generation-products in Japan,” Palazzetti said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Glo, like iQOS, uses tobacco packed in replaceable sticks.

Instead of burning, the battery-powered devices heat the sticks to generate vapour, which their makers say emit less harmful chemicals than conventional cigarettes.

Marlboro-maker Philip Morris estimates that HeatSticks, used in iQOS, had already cornered a 10% share of the Japanese market as of April, up from 7.6% in January.

Apart from Japan, iQOS is available in at least 19 other markets. Glo went on sale in Switzerland and Canada earlier this year.

The latest version of iQOS is priced at 10,980 yen (US$99), while glo is priced at 8,000 yen. Japan Tobacco Inc’s vaping product “Ploom TECH”, which is set to be sold in Tokyo from June 29, costs 4,000 yen.

The former state monopoly, which commands 60% of Japan’s cigarette market, has been lagging in the new product category, but says it is aiming to grab the top share of the country’s vaping market in three years.

Japan Tobacco plans to spend 10 billion yen in marketing as it expands the sale of Ploom Tech to the rest of Japan in the first half of 2018, CEO Mitsuomi Koizumi told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters
Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/05/30/bat-to-expand-glo-smokeless-tobacco-sales-in-japan-from-july/#0kPxiDzxQM2ex1jq.99

Stopping production and marketing of tobacco can be the only way to uphold basic human rights

Action on Smoking and Health and Unfairtobacco agree with the Danish Institute of Human Rights (DIHR) that Philip Morris International (PMI) should cease “the production and marketing of tobacco.”

http://www.news-medical.net/news/20170529/Stopping-production-and-marketing-of-tobacco-can-be-the-only-way-to-uphold-basic-human-rights.aspx

After completing a collaboration with Philip Morris International (PMI) to develop a “human rights implementation plan,” the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) concluded that immediately stopping the sale and marketing of tobacco is the only way for tobacco companies to uphold basic human rights.

ASH and Unfairtobacco are fully aligned with the DIHR conclusion that tobacco production and marketing is deeply harmful and irreconcilable with the human right to health, meaning that PMI and other tobacco companies must stop selling harmful products immediately.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) approached the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR), a quasistate body, last year to collaborate on a “human rights implementation plan” for PMI. The DIHR was given access to the corporation to assess PMI’s value chain. Following DIHR’s completion of their work, they concluded:

Tobacco is deeply harmful to human health, and there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health. For the tobacco industry, the [United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] therefore require the cessation of the production and marketing of tobacco.

Allan Lerberg Jørgensen, Department Director, Human Rights and Development with the DIHR, stated they hoped their “input will enable PMI to better understand how the corporate responsibility to respect human rights applies to their business and take the necessary action.”

“ASH and our allies strongly agree with DIHR that the sale of cigarettes is irreconcilable with human rights. The necessary action that DIHR references is clear: if PMI is serious about human rights, it should stop producing, marketing and selling products that kill their consumers.”

Laurent Huber, Action on Smoking and Health (USA)

“As early as 1954, then PMI Vice President George Weissman said that ‘If we had any thought or knowledge that in any way we were selling a product harmful to consumers, we would stop business tomorrow’. The DIHR assessment is just the most recent reminder of their promise. We expect PMI to finally stop selling cigarettes immediately.”

Laura Graen, Unfairtobacco

For PMI to continue producing and marketing cigarettes directly conflicts with development and human rights objectives. Tobacco corporations not only sell a defective product that kills half of its consumers, but they also have a long history of pressuring governments to block and delay lifesaving regulations, thus costing the world millions of lives and billions of dollars every year.

Global Public Health Policies Against Tobacco Partnerships

One strategy the tobacco industry utilizes is the use of third party collaborations to interfere with tobacco control policy making, or to gain legitimacy as a “stakeholder,” and to white wash their reputation.

For this reason, the global tobacco treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) includes a process designed to protect public health policies from the interests of the tobacco industry, requiring that all public or semipublic institutions “should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products.” With that in mind, the global public health community was united in asking DIHR to break their PMI relationship, in line with the Institute’s international human rights obligations. The DIHR responded promptly, ending the relationship before its originally published end date (August 2017).

Stopping the sale of tobacco products is also consistent with the United Nations

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call on countries to reduce the number of smokers through implementation of the tobacco treaty, the WHO FCTC.

Philip Morris has publicly welcomed the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, while their products are simultaneously recognized by the United Nations, Human Rights agencies, and the public health community as a barrier to development and human rights. Philip Morris states on its website, “How long will the world’s leading cigarette company be in the cigarette business?” The answer is clear: not a day longer.

SmokeFree Tasmania and Minister trade barbs

A war of words has erupted between the Health Minister Michael Ferguson and advocacy group, SmokeFree Tasmania, after it accused the government of bowing to the wishes of big tobacco companies.

http://www.examiner.com.au/story/4691300/government-slams-smoke-group-claims/

The stoush comes after Tasmania was named runner-up in the Australian Medical Association’s Dirty Ashtray Award – for governments that make the least effort to reduce smoking.

Responding to the second placing, Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the state would achieve better scores from the association as more policies aimed at reducing smoking rates were implemented.

But SmokeFree Tasmania north member Harley Stanton said the government had included suggestions from big tobacco companies to formulate its Healthy Tasmania Strategic Plan.

“Given that the Tasmanian government, in its healthy Tasmania policy, included advice from Imperial Tobacco it is not surprising that they have been nationally rebuked,” he said.

“This is both embarrassing internationally and bad conduct for any government.”

Fellow SmokeFree Tasmania adviser Kathryn Barnsley said the government needed to distance itself from tobacco companies.

She said the benefit of the government’s crusade on the illicit tobacco market benefited tobacco companies, like Imperial Tobacco.

“The tobacco industry wants the government to crack down on illicit tobacco, but the illicit market is not a health problem,” she said.

But Mr Ferguson slammed the comments as “complete and utter rubbish”.

“I also point out for the record that last year, the government proposed as part of the five-year plan raising the smoking age to 21, and SmokeFree Tasmania aggressively campaigned against it which is inexplicable,” he said.

Dr Barnsley said the government had also failed to provide more money for mass-media campaigns to reduce smoking rates.

Dr Stanton criticised the government’s health expenditure announced in last week’s budget.

“Prevention is better than a cure and reducing the number of people smoking will take pressure off our hospitals,” he said.

Big Tobacco is losing the fight to stop plain packaging of cigarettes

Dr Enrico Bonadio, a Senior Lecturer in the City Law School, says the tobacco industry’s bid to avoid plain packaging by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights, is being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2017/may/big-tobacco-is-losing-the-fight-to-stop-plain-packaging-of-cigarettes

You may already have seen the tobacco packs currently sold in the UK: a dark, murky green colour with large graphic health-warning images and scary messages aimed at informing current and potential smokers about the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption. They have no colourful logos, with the brand name just displayed in small characters in a standard font.

These packs are now required by new regulations which entered into force in May 2016. There has been a one-year transitional period for the sell-through of old stock – and from May 20 2017 all tobacco products on sale in the UK must comply with the new rules.

The legislative move has been recommended to all countries by the World Health Organisation to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and eventually reduce consumption. Australia was the first country to introduce such strict packaging requirements in December 2012. France and, of course, the UK have since followed suit.

It follows significant research that shows these new standardised cigarette packs are much less appealing to consumers – and young people especially.
The industry’s legal defeats

No wonder tobacco companies have challenged the measure in the courts. They have argued that it is useless, too harsh – and is an infringement of their fundamental and intellectual property rights, especially trademarks. Yet, their claims are based on weak arguments and have been rejected by both the High Court of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal.

The tobacco industry has faced numerous courtroom defeats of late. Last year Uruguay won a landmark case against the Swiss giant Philip Morris International. The company had sued the Latin American state after it introduced two measures affecting tobacco packaging and trademarks. These were mandatory graphic health warnings covering 80% of cigarette packets (a measure very close to plain packaging) and the obligation for tobacco companies to adopt a single presentation for their brands, dropping for example the “gold” and “blue” descriptors, that could lead smokers to believe one variant was safer than another.

The fact that the courts sided with Uruguay would have been encouraging to other countries aiming to introduce controls on tobacco packaging. And even greater encouragement came recently from a World Trade Organisation ruling which deemed that the plain packaging requirements introduced by Australia as compliant with international trade and intellectual property rules – and are therefore a legitimate public health measure.

The decision has not been officially announced, but a confidential draft of the interim ruling was leaked to the media and the final decision is expected later this year. The Australian measure had been challenged at the WTO tribunal by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Honduras, countries whose economies strongly rely on the tobacco industry.

A domino effect

This is a blow to the industry. The short-term consequences of the WTO ruling – Imperial Tobacco’s shares fell more than 2% after the decision was leaked – reflects the longer-term danger that this ruling poses. It will likely convince other states to introduce plain packaging legislation without fear of violating international trade and intellectual property laws. It basically gives them a green light by removing the regulatory chilling effect that such legal action has produced on countries that wanted to follow Australia’s example.

After all, more and more countries seem interested in adopting standardised packaging. As well as France and the UK, Ireland and Norway will introduce packaging restrictions later in 2017, and Hungary in 2018. Many other states are debating similar measures, including New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Slovenia, Belgium, Singapore and Thailand.

So, a legislative trend has started which aims to restrict the ability of tobacco manufacturers to make their products appealing to consumers by using eye-catching words, logos or ornamental features on the pack. And attempts by Big Tobacco to stop it by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights are being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

Ultimately, the industry needs to accept the fact that its ability to use fancy brands, especially on packaging, may be reduced by governments for public health reasons. Also that a company’s property rights are not absolute or untouchable. Not only does it not have enough legal basis – as has now been confirmed by several courts and tribunals – but it also disregards legitimate policies adopted by democratically elected governments.

Heat-Not-Burn Tobacco Cigarettes: Smoke by Any Other Name

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Appeals Court Deals Blow To Tobacco Companies

More than a decade after the Florida Supreme Court opened the floodgates for lawsuits against tobacco companies, an Atlanta-based appeals court this week rejected arguments that could have helped shield cigarette makers in legal battles about smoking-related illnesses and deaths.

http://wlrn.org/post/appeals-court-deals-blow-tobacco-companies-0

The full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA, Inc., which contended that federal law trumps certain claims. The appeals court also rejected the companies’ arguments of due-process violations.

The case largely stems from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that established findings about a series of issues including the dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers. The ruling helped spawn thousands of lawsuits in state and federal courts, with plaintiffs able to use the findings against tobacco companies — lawsuits that have become known as “Engle progeny” cases.

The appeals-court decision Thursday came in an Engle progeny case tried in federal court in Jacksonville. The case was filed by the family of Faye Graham, who died after smoking for 41 years and developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, according to a brief in the case.

A jury ruled against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris on issues of strict liability and negligence. It also found Graham partially at fault, with a judge ultimately deciding that R.J. Reynolds should pay $550,000 in damages and Philip Morris should pay $275,000.

In the appeal, the tobacco companies argued, in part, that federal laws regulate cigarettes and, as a result, should prevent claims of strict liability and negligence based on the Engle findings — a legal concept known as federal preemption.

“The strict-liability and negligence claims in this case do not rest on any alleged defect specific to the cigarettes smoked by Mrs. Graham. Instead … they rest on the inherent riskiness of all cigarettes,” attorneys for the tobacco companies argued in a 2014 brief. “The claims here thus seek to enforce a legal duty, grounded in Florida tort law, to refrain from selling ordinary cigarettes. Because such a duty squarely conflicts with federal law, the claims here are preempted.”

But Thursday’s majority ruling, written by appeals-court Judge William Pryor, rejected such contentions, writing that “federal tobacco laws do not preempt state tort claims based on the dangerousness of all the cigarettes manufactured by the tobacco companies.”

“Florida may employ its police power to regulate cigarette sales and to impose tort liability on cigarette manufacturers,” Pryor wrote in the 43-page opinion.

The majority also rejected to the tobacco companies’ arguments that due-process rights had been violated in using the Engle findings in the Graham case.

But appeals-court Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote an encyclopedic 226-page dissent on the preemption and due-process issues. As an example, in addressing the preemption issue, he wrote that judges “cannot give effect to the Florida Supreme Court’s decisions in a manner that operates as a ban on the sale of cigarettes without elevating state law over federal law.”

“I merely conclude that, having surveyed both federal and state law, it is clear that Congress would have intended to preempt Graham’s strict-liability and negligence claims, rooted as they are in a broadly applicable state law set forth by the Florida Supreme Court that deems all cigarettes defective, unreasonably dangerous, and negligently produced,” Tjoflat wrote.

Charges laid against Philip Morris

The Ministry of Health has laid charges against tobacco company Philip Morris New Zealand relating to a new type of non-burning tobacco product.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/92735158/charges-laid-against-philip-morris

The product, Iqos, was launched at the end of last year. It was promoted through an invitation-only website and used a battery-powered holder to heats tobacco sticks known as heets to give off vapour rather than smoke.

Heets are heated rather than burned like a traditional cigarette, to give smokers a nicotine hit.

The ministry said it considered heets were tobacco products designed for oral use other than for smoking and were prohibited under the Smoke-Free Environments Act.

The charges have been laid at the Wellington District Court and the case has been set down for first hearing on June 2.

The Ministry said in February that the device was legal but the sticks were not.

Philip Morris said the Ministry’s move demonstrated the need for comprehensive reform so that smokers could switch from cigarettes to smoke-free alternatives.

General manager of Philip Morris New Zealand Jason Erickson said the company believed it was helping to advance the Government’s goal of making the country smokefree when it introduced Iqos to New Zealand.

​Erickson said the company was confident that the sale of Iqos and heets fully complied with the Smokefree Environments Act (1990) and other relevant legislation in New Zealand.

“The section of the law referenced by the Ministry in its action against Philip Morris was originally put in place in the 1990s to address American-style chewing tobacco,” Erickson said.

“We stand behind Iqos and heets,” Mr Erickson said. “But it’s clear that old 20th century laws are not sufficient to address new 21st century technologies that New Zealand smokers are embracing as they move away from combustible cigarettes.”

The New Zealand Government announced in March that it would legalise the sale and supply of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid, and establish a pathway to enable emerging tobacco and nicotine-delivery products to be sold lawfully as consumer products.

Iqos is available in in more than 20 countries around the world, including the UK, Japan, Italy and Switzerland. Globally more than two million smokers have switched to IQOS and the company had plans to expand to key cities in 30 countries by the end of 2017, Erickson said.

Anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said Philip Morris had been working in opposition to the Government’s goal of the country becoming smokefree by 2025.

“Philip Morris have enough lawyers, have enough researchers and have enough intelligence to ensure they adhere to this country’s laws,” said spokesman Boyd Broughton.

“The fact they have knowingly broken the law is another example of their absolute contempt towards the laws of New Zealand. Is this product harmful? We don’t know. But this discussion is now about this product, it’s about the law. What we must remember is that Philip Morris remains responsible for selling and profiting off the sale of smoked tobacco, which is responsible for the preventable and premature deaths of over 5000 New Zealanders per year.”

What’s keeping Indonesia, China addicted to smoking?

A World Trade Organisation ruling backing Australia’s hard line on cigarette packaging highlights a gulf between Asia and much of the rest of the world

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2094162/whats-keeping-indonesia-china-addicted-smoking

It was during a trip to Egypt in 1995 when Edison Siahaan first felt that something wasn’t quite right with his throat. Four decades had gone by since he started smoking at the age of 15. His voice had been raspy for years. Maybe this was just the dry air tickling the back of his throat.

But it wasn’t dry air and it wasn’t a tickle. It was cancer. Doctors excised a portion of his trachea leaving a hole the size of a nickel at the base of the throat. He lost his bank job because for a year following the surgery he couldn’t speak. Even now, what passes for speech makes him sound like the emperor from Star Wars only with more hissing. Now 79, Siahaan, a kindly old gent with a full head of hair, is tough to look at. “I see kids smoking all the time here,” he says, gesturing back and forth along the length of the street from his front room. “It makes me sick to think they are going to ruin their life. I point at this hole in my throat and say to them: do you want to look like this?”

Asian men already account for the lion’s share of the world’s tobacco related illnesses, yet a World Trade Organisation ruling this week that upheld tough anti-smoking rules introduced in Australia in 2012, showed that if anything, the gap in attitudes between Asia and the rest of the world may be widening.

“Tobacco in China is absolutely devastating,” says Dr Angela Pratt who helps handle external relations at the World Health Organisation’s office for the Western Pacific in Manila.

In China, roughly 300 million people smoke, according to the WHO. Most of these are men. More than half of Chinese adults are smokers and two-thirds of young Chinese men start smoking. While smoking rates are steady, the absolute number of smokers is rising in line with population growth. Chinese smokers account for 44 per cent of all the cigarettes puffed in the world. At current rates 200 million Chinese will die this century from tobacco-related illnesses, Pratt says. “That’s a huge burden. The people afflicted are often the sole income earners,” she says.

This week, the WTO ruled that Australia’s plain packaging rules, which ban branding and distinctive colouring from packs of cigarettes, were a legitimate public health measure. The ruling knocked back a complaint from Indonesia, Cuba, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, who said the rule amounted to an illegal trade barrier. As the former chief of staff to the Australian health minister who introduced the plain packaging measures, Nicola Roxon, Pratt helped develop the policy, bulletproofing it from court challenges from tobacco companies and governments.

“We were proud to be taking on plain packaging,” Pratt recalls. “But we wanted to be sure to be able to defend it.”

Together with graphic warnings and taxes that will push cigarettes up to A$40 (HK$230) per pack by 2020, the measure is credited with accelerating the fall in Australia’s smoking rate. The most recent figures show about 13 per cent of Australian adults smoke and less than five per cent of school children. A dozen countries, from Canada to Chile and Britain to Uruguay are either introducing similar rules or seriously considering them.

At the other extreme is Indonesia. The most recent figures, which date back to 2013, show 240,000 Indonesians die every year from tobacco related illnesses. Two-thirds of Indonesian men and boys, over the age of 15, smoke, according to the Ministry of Health.

Most troubling are the numbers of new young smokers throughout the archipelago, says Dr Widyastuti Soerojo, chair of the tobacco control unit at the Indonesian Public Health Association. She says some 16 million Indonesian youngsters between the ages of 10 and 19 experiment with smoking every year – a rate of about 44,000 every day.

Indonesia is among the few countries that are not signatories to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which among other things aims to curb the appeal of smoking for children.

Indonesia television and billboards feature handsome intrepid men jumping out of planes or into business meetings. Roadside kiosks individually sell clove cigarettes, known as kretek, for as little as 10 US cents each.

Governments in Jakarta and local governments in vote-rich provinces, such as Central Java and East Java, fend off calls for more curbs on smoking saying they provide badly needed jobs to rural families.

But mechanisation and growing taste for machine-made cancer sticks rather than hand-rolled types, belie that argument. Tobacco accounts for about half of one per cent of all jobs in Indonesia, according to the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. Campaigners are quick to point out the country’s richest families have tobacco to thank.

The Hartonos, Indonesia’s richest family and worth US$17 billion, own kretek maker Djarum.

Indonesian cigarette sales totaled US$16 billion in 2015. Sampoerna, which is more than 90 per cent owned by Philip Morris, is Indonesia’s most valuable company.

“The government treats tobacco like it’s a normal industry but really this is neocolonialism by tobacco companies,” Dr Soerojo says.

In China, the culprit for health advocates is the China National Tobacco Corporation, which controls more than 98 per cent of the local market. Implementation of the UN tobacco convention falls to the Ministry of Industry, which is also home to the body that owns China Tobacco. “A parallel would be, back when I was with the health ministry, meetings were chaired by a representative of Philip Morris,” Pratt said. “There’s plenty of room for conflict of interest.”

Still, there’s progress. Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, with a combined population of more than 60 million, have banned smoking in public areas. China hiked taxes on cigarettes in 2015. The move resulted in a 20 per cent jump in the retail prices of the cheapest brands. Owing to its massive market, that move alone resulted in a more than 2 per cent drop in world tobacco consumption in 2016.

In Indonesia, smoking is banned in most public spaces but enforcement peters out the further one travels from the centre of Jakarta. Indonesia introduced graphic warnings on packaging in 2012 and hiked excise taxes on cigarettes by 15 per cent in 2016. Even so, additional hikes for this year were scotched. Glimmers of light are on the horizon, says WHO’s Pratt, but plain packaging is still “a long way off”.

For Siahaan, his government’s halting go-slow approach is proof that cigarettes are insidious, and for him, more ruinous than narcotics. “At least with drugs you can get help,” he gasps. “For cigarettes, you see them everywhere.”

Tobacco firms denied plain pack appeal

The UK supreme court has made a final decision, denying tobacco firms permission to appeal against plain packaging.

http://www.packagingnews.co.uk/news/markets/tobacco/tobacco-firms-denied-plain-pack-appeal-12-04-2017

The decision means that all cigarettes sold in the UK after 20 May must come in the standardised packaging that’s been increasingly appearing in shops during the trial period over the last year.

There will also no longer be packs of 10 cigarettes available in a move designed to deter young people from taking up smoking. For the same reason menthol cigarettes are being phased out but more gradually. They will disappear from shelves by May 2020.

Last November, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Philip Morris International went to the supreme court after the court of appeal claiming that the plain pack law would infringe their human and intellectual property rights but he appeal was rejected.

Any hopes the companies might have had that there was still a slim chance a challenge could be mounted will have been dashed by the final ruling.

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, welcomed the supreme court’s decision, saying: “Standardised packaging will cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and avoidable deaths.”

British American Tobacco nabs 40 per cent market share in Bulgaria with its purchase of Bulgartabac brands

British American Tobacco (BAT) has agreed to buy some of Bulgarian cigarette maker Bulgartabac’s top brands in a deal worth more than €100m (£84.8m).

http://www.cityam.com/262852/british-american-tobacco-nabs-40-per-cent-market-share

The move to buy Victory, Eva Slim and GD brands will bring BAT’s market share in the country to 40 per cent from just 12 per cent previously. The deal will include retail and distribution assets in the country and the wider Adriatic region.

BAT, which has operated in Bulgaria for 25 years, said it is proud to be making the biggest investment in the country this year.

“We are committed to the Bulgarian market and are very excited about this investment in a country which is increasingly demonstrating that it has a very bright future. This significant investment demonstrates our confidence both in Bulgaria and our future growth here,” said Richard Widmann, general manager of BAT’s central European cluster.

Subject to regulatory approval, the deal will be complete by mid-2017, BAT said.

A spokesperson for BAT added the transaction aligns financially and strategically with the business objectives for the central European region. The group will grow its business in Bulgaria and further enhance its position in the Balkans, following its acquisition of TDR in 2015.