BAT Dumps Bulgarian Cigarette Maker

British American Tobacco, the only top-notch investor among the companies, which were expected to bid for Bulgaria’s majority bulgar tobaccostake in cigarette maker Bulgartabac, has withdrawn from the tender, officials said.
The company has sent an official letter, terminating its participation in the procedure due to “commercial and strategic reasons”, the privatization agency announced on Monday.
The news comes a week after Austria-based CB Family Office Service abandoned the sale, leaving Austria-registered BT Invest, behind which stands Russia’s second-biggest bank VTB, the only bidder for Bulgarian tobacco monopoly.
The move also confirms rumors, which said British American Tobacco bought documents for the tender just with the aim of collecting information and had no plans to bid.
Six years ago BAT was picked Bulgartabac buyer, but the procedure was terminated following pressure from the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, an ally of the government at that time, while the then Economy Minister Lidia Shuleva resigned.
Since then the market share of the holding shrank to about 37% due to strong competition by foreign brands.
British American Tobacco and Austria-registered BT Invest were the only two companies, which bought information memoranda before the deadline expired on July 25.
CB Family Office Service, the other Austria-based company, which was expected to submit a binding offer, did not purchase an information memorandum. Reports that the company had operational problems with the bank transfer of the money needed (BGN 20. 000) and may still take part in the tender have proved false.
Under the rules of the procedure the companies have to place a deposit and submit binding bids no later than August 29, while the winner should be selected in September.
Now that only one bidder has remained, it is not clear how the privatization agency is going to proceed.
Last month the head of Bulgaria’s Corporate Commercial Bank, which is believed to finance the media group of mogul Irena Krasteva, has denied he is interested in the privatization of the country’s state tobacco giant Bulgartabac Holding.
Tsvetan Vassilev is rumored to be linked to one of the two bidders for the state-owned cigarette-making giant, registered in Austria – CB Family Office Service or BT Invest.
Corporate Commercial Bank currently holds a 8.11% in Bulgartabac. The bank, which is believed to finance the media group of mogul Irena Krasteva, holds nearly half of the money of strategic state-owned companies.
A majority stake – 79,83% – in Bulgaria’s state cigarette producer Bulgartabac Holding, whose management has been harshly criticized in recent years, was put on sale on April 26 after years of procrastination.
The long-delayed procedure was officially given the go-ahead by the agency for privatization and post-privatization control through an announcement in the State Gazette on May 10.
The consultant for the Bulgartabac sale, Citigroup Global Markets Ltd, was picked by the Bulgarian government in February 2010.
Two of the less profitable plants of Bulgartabac holding – in the cities of Plovdiv and Stara Zagora – were sold in 2009 through the Sofia Stock Exchange – for BGN 31 M and BGN 18 M respectively.
The holding currently owns the two larger and more consolidated factories in Sofia and Blagoevgrad as well as a number of commercial brands.

British American Tobacco Remains Only Strategic Bidder for Bulgartabac

Only three companies have remained to bid for the privatization of Bulgaria’s state-owned cigarette-making giant Bulgartabac bulgar tobaccoHolding, and only one of them is a strategic investor – British American Tobacco.
In addition to BAT, only two companies registered in Austria – CB Family Office Services and BT Invest – have remained to bid for the purchase of a majority stake in Bulgartabac.
A total of 10 companies bought documents for the tender for the privatization of Bulgartabac Holding but only these three have notified Bulgaria’s Agency for Privatization and Post-Privatization Control that they meet the preliminary requirements for bidding by Monday, which was the deadline.
British American Tobacco came close to buying Bulgartabac back in 2004 but the deal was allegedly halted by the ethnic Turkish party DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms), which was a junior coalition partner in the government of Simeon Saxe-Coburg (2001-2005); DPS acted out of concerns regarding its voters, many of whom are tobacco growers.
BT Invest is an Austrian investment fund, while CB Family Office Service is a consultancy based in Graz, Austria.
The Bulgarian Privatization Agency is supposed to issue certificates for the registration of British American Tobacco, CB Family Office Service, and BT Invest by July 25, 2011; the dealine for purchasing information memorandums for Bulgartabac Holding is the same. Thus, the three bidders will be able to submit their binding offers by August 29, 2011.
In addition to BAT, three of the four major companies that were expected to bid for Bulgartabac have dropped out of the tender – Japan Tobacco International, Philip Morris Bulgaria and South Korea’s KT&G Corporation.
The other four droppers are Bulgarian law firms Kambourov & Partners and Dzhingov, Guginski, Kiuchukov and Velichkov; Bulgarian-based King’s Tobacco, which purchased Bulgartabac’s former plant in Plovdiv; and US-based Science Capital management LLC.
A majority stake – 79,83% – in Bulgaria’s state cigarette producer Bulgartabac Holding, whose management has been harshly criticized in recent years, was put on sale on April 26 after years of procrastination.
The long-delayed procedure was officially given the go-ahead by the agency for privatization and post-privatization control through an announcement in the State Gazette on May 10, 2011.
The agency invited strategic and financial investors to buy tender documents by June 10. Binding offers have to be filed by the end of August.
The bidder with the highest offer will be selected for buyer. No initial price has been set.
The buyer of Bulgartabac is expected to be known in September.
The consultant for the Bulgartabac sale, Citigroup Global Markets Ltd, was picked by the Bulgarian government in February 2010.
Two of the less profitable plants of Bulgartabac holding – in the cities of Plovdiv and Stara Zagora – were sold in 2009 through the Sofia Stock Exchange – for BGN 31 M and BGN 18 M respectively.
The holding currently owns the two larger and more consolidated factories in Sofia and Blagoevgrad and a processing factory in Yasen near Pleven, as well as a number of commercial brands.
The three law firms – Kambourov & Partners and Dzhingov, Guginski, Kiuchukov and Velichkov; and US-based Science Capital management LLC – were believed to have been bidding on behalf of unknown players. Back in 2002 the second firm made a bid on behalf of Tobacco Capital Partners but the privatization was not finalized.
According to the Bulgarian Privatization Agency, Bulgartabac should have a new majority owner by September 6, 2011. The expected price of the sale is still unclear. The price has a weight of 35% in the government’s privatizaiton decision, while the obligation of the new owner to buy out a minimum required quantity of tobacco has greater weight – 60%; the proposed future investments for the next two years “weigh” only 5%.
The set conditions require that the buyer be a strategic or financial investor. Financial investors are required to have had shares worth at least EUR 1 B in the past three years, and own capital amounting to EUR 30 M.
Strategic investors need to have had income from sale of tobacco products of at least EUR 1 B over the past three yearss, and the capacity to process 12 000 tons of tobacco and 35 billion cigarettes per year.
According to press reports, back in 2004, then Bulgarian Deputy PM Lidiya Shuleva lost her post under pressure from the DPS party when she came close to signing a privatization deal with British American Tobacco for two of Bulgartabac’s plants – the one in Blagoevgrad and the one in Plovdiv, which is now owned by King’s Tobacco.

BAT eyes Sudan as cigarette sales in Kenya stagnate

British American Tobacco Kenya (BAT) is set to venture into Southern Sudan to expand its export business as the local market Cigarettes price risecomes under increasing regulatory pressures.
The cigarette manufacturer said it was finalising talks with the Southern Sudan government to begin supplying that market by year-end, a move that is expected to grow its export business that absorbs 62 per cent of its production.
“Consumption in Kenya has been flat for about six years now,” said Gary Fagan, the BAT Kenya managing director. “We want to increase our production efficiencies to meet the growing demand from the export market.”
16 markets
BAT Kenya supplies 16 markets in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region and plans to deepen the external market to protect its sales from unpredictable tax regimes and increased regulation by health agencies in Kenya.
Mr Fagan said that since August last year, the firm has exported 1,000 tonnes to semi-processed tobacco products to Egypt, with plans to increase the volumes to the country by up to 8,000 tonnes by end of the year.
Weak demand from external markets last year saw export sales decline marginally to stand at Sh4.9 billion or 36.2 per cent of the Sh13.5 billion total turnover, with the firm keen on reducing its reliance on the Kenyan market.
BAT sales in the local market have been hit by the Tobacco Control Act that has in the past few years prohibited smoking in public and advertising of tobacco products as the government seeks to discourage smoking that is a major cause of lung cancer and other illnesses.
The company, which has the biggest share of the cigarette market in Kenya, has also suffered from rampant counterfeiting of its products estimated to rob it of at least 10 per cent market share.
The move to deepen the export market comes as the tobacco industry faces uncertainty in the taxation regime, with the Minister for Finance expected to announce a new system for taxing tobacco products in the upcoming budget.
Officials at Treasury, Ministry of Medical Services, and the Kenya Revenue Authority are working on plans to introduce a single tobacco taxation regime hinged on inflation, meaning that the tax rate will go up and down with the prevailing costs of common goods and services.
“If the tax is placed at the current high inflation levels then that will erode consumers’ purchasing power which in turn hurts sales,” Mr Fagan said, adding that the company supports the new tax system so long as the government reigns in inflation.
Inflation touched a 17-month high last month on the back of surging international oil prices and food shortages occasioned by the recent drought.
This has seen the costs of local pump prices and staple commodities go up by large margins, causing consumers to realign their budgets against non-essential habits like smoking.
The new tax proposal comes barely six months since Treasury changed taxes on cigarettes to rely on retail selling price from the complex system adopted in the June 2010 budget where physical characteristics of cigarette sticks and packaging were key factors determining tax levels in the industry.

British American to Market Tobacco-Free Nicotine Products

British American Tobacco BTI will develop tobacco-free nicotine products at its newly created Nicoventures unit in BATan attempt to retain revenue from smokers who wish to quit on health grounds. We regard the move as a hedge against declining rates of smoking in developed markets, and we expect the new unit to remain a very small piece of British American’s top line for several years. Although we think British American is a solid business, we think the stock’s recent rally has overshot the intrinsic value of the firm, and we recommend value investors look to Imperial Tobacco ITYBY for value in the tobacco industry.
British American’s new business will negotiate with global regulators with a view to launching cigarette-replacement products. Regulators could prove to be a significant hurdle, in our opinion, because in recent years their efforts have been focused on the reduction or even abolition of the use of nicotine and tobacco. Smokeless tobacco is increasingly being used in the United States as an alternative to smoking, but such products are banned in the European Union (except Sweden), and we think the EU may provide the most lucrative market for British American’s new venture. Reynolds American RAI acquired a smoking-cessation product manufacturer in 2009 in a similar hedge against declining rates of smoking. However, these products remain a tiny piece of Reynolds’ business, and even smokeless is small. We estimate that revenue from smokeless tobacco will represent just 12% of Altria’s MO total revenue by 2020. Similarly, we expect Nicoventures to remain insignificant for the foreseeable future.
Given that we do not expect any impact on the stock as a result of this venture, we think British American is slightly overvalued at 15 times forward earnings. We recommend investors look at Imperial Tobacco for value in the tobacco industry. The firm is the best placed of its competitors to exploit growth at both ends of the pricing scale in tobacco, but the stock is trading at just 11 times 2011 earnings and offers around 10% upside, in our opinion.
By Philip Gorham

British American Tobacco Cut From U.S. Racketeering Case

British American Tobacco Plc, Europe’s largest cigarette maker, was dropped from the U.S. government’s racketeering lawsuit after aBAT judge in Washington ruled the U.S. no longer has the authority to hold the U.K. company liable for hiding the health hazards of smoking.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler today said a 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a securities case restricts the U.S. from seeking liability from “what is essentially foreign activity.”
“There is no evidence that Congress intended to criminalize foreign racketeering activities under RICO,” Kessler wrote.
In 2006, Kessler found that the British American Tobacco (Investments) Ltd. unit of British American Tobacco and other cigarette companies violated anti-racketeering laws by conspiring to hide the dangers of cigarettes. Kessler ordered the companies to stop marketing cigarettes as “light” and “low-tar” and to make statements about the health effects of smoking in newspapers and magazines and on cigarette packages.
The Justice Department, in court papers, argued British American Tobacco’s liability can be premised on its conduct in the U.S., including the company’s involvement with an experimental farm in North Carolina.
“The problem with the Government’s argument is that BATCo’s domestic conduct was not the basis for its RICO liability in this case,” Kessler said.
Contribute Payments
Kessler said in her ruling today that British American Tobacco must still contribute payments to cover the government’s legal costs.
Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment.
An e-mail message and telephone message left with British American Tobacco’s London press office after normal business hours weren’t immediately returned.
Earlier this month, British American Tobacco, along with Altria Group Inc.’s Philip Morris USA unit, Reynolds American Inc.’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Lorillard Inc.’s Lorillard Tobacco, asked Kessler to dismiss the 1999 racketeering case, saying court oversight of the industry is no longer needed.
The companies said a 2009 law, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, empowered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to watch over the industry and establish restrictions on the sale, promotion and distribution of tobacco products.
Kessler hasn’t ruled on that motion.
The case is U.S. v. Philip Morris USA Inc., 99-cv-02496, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
By Tom Schoenberg:

British American Tobacco Criticizes 'silly' tobacco legislation

British American Tobacco South Africa has named several articles of the local department of public health’ introduced amendments to the lawBAT covering sales of tobacco products as “silly”.
“We don’t understand the objective of the measure. The government has introduced the amendments in the legislation in order to restrict the independence and the rights of the sellers communicate with consumers at the points of sale, said Jerry Gilbert, regulation manage at British American Tobacco.
“Small sellers would be prohibited from selling tobacco products within one meter from any place that could be appealing to adolescents. The reason for that is that children could be attracted into buying tobacco after seeing it,” Gilbert added.
The tobacco industry is one of the most strictly-regulated industries in South Africa and the tobacco companies are banned from advertising their products, although alcohol brands are advertised and sold without any restrictions.
Several months ago, Beke Cele, SA police commissioner declared he was in favor of increasing the legal age for consuming and buying alcohol from 18 to 21 years.
Unfair legislation
British American Tobacco is the second largest cigarette-maker in the world producing such brands as,,, Dunhill and others.
“Alcohol companies usually claim their glamorous and appealing adverts do not impact on alcohol consumption rates. Well, I think this is a lie. Alcohol ads are so catchy and seem to be sexy and appealing,” Zodwa Ntuli, vice-chairman of the department of trade and industry said, adding that the legislation should be equal to tobacco and alcohol industries.
BAT manager admitted that smoking rates in the developing countries have been growing; however, they have seen a significant drop in the cigarette consumption in South Africa, yet, the stringent laws were not the reason for that, as sales of contraband tobacco have been increasing.
“It is evident that such measures are not effective. Similar laws were implemented in Canada and Ireland, and the volumes of legal sales have fallen sharply, with illegal market seeing a huge growth. Currently each third cigarette sold in Canada is illicit. The South African law will do nothing besides hurting 60,000 sellers and traders”
“We believe the amended legislation is not fair due to the definition of what venues could be included,” stated Mkhululi Nonjola, chairman of Asiye Etafuleni, an advocacy group dealing with development and working with traders.
He added they had introduced proposals to the department of public health but received no response. Nonjola said that while it is vital to restrict cigarette appeal to adolescents, there have been other more effective ways to do that.
British American Tobacco admitted the company has tried to work with the health department.
‘Silly law’
“We have sent our proposals to the health department, but they have not responded. We ttried to warn them about the unintended consequences of the legislation,” said Jerry Gilbert,
He also emphasized that British American Tobacco has not been opposing the tobacco legislation, but it had to react, as “bad measures will not be good just because they are implemented in tobacco industry.”

Introduced regulations make British American Tobacco reduce earnings forecast

A legislation recently introduced to Kenyan Parliament has dimmed the performance forecast for local tobacco companies, promptingBAT British American Tobacco (BAT), the largest cigarette maker in the country, to reduce its earnings outlook for next fiscal year.
BAT Kenya declared in a written statement that an unexpected to Kenyan Finance Bill 2010 proposed in local Parliament in early December would initiate a dramatic price war in the cigarette market, hurting revenues for all local cigarette makers and sellers.
According to the BAT statement the amendment introduced by Kenyan Parliament will lead to in industry-wide aspiration to cut prices on their products so that the companies could benefit from lower excise duty on cigarettes. The company added that a decline in their revenues could prompt taxes imposed by the government fall by 27 percent in 2011.
The World Health Organization as well adopted a new document in November urging tobacco industry to reduce the amount of sugar-containing additives in tobacco products, which the WHO stated lead to an addiction on tobacco in adolescents.
Although the latest regulation has not been approved by the Kenya Bureau of Standards, British American Tobacco admitted that if approved in the country it will make it a way more difficult for the company to market its cigarettes, since the variety of tobacco manufactured in Kenya is very harsh and needs additives to be more pleasant.
British American Tobacco is reported to have approximately an 80 percent market share in Kenyan tobacco market.
Mastermind Tobacco Co, the second largest tobacco company in the country, addressed all questions to the company’s director of external communication, Josh Kirimania, who yet was not available to comment on the issue.
According to the statement revealed last week, BAT stated that Kenyan Parliament members did not consult the company when the amendment to the bill was introduced to Parliament and named amendment in taxation law as “concentrated on supporting only one tobacco company.”
The introduced amendments are likely to supersede the present hybrid excise tax system based on physical properties and retail price of the products. The amended taxation system will be based only on retail price of the products. The measure would increase taxes on several brands by about 65 percent.
If adopted, the new legislation would make local smokers pay more for the most popular brands, like Safari, Sportsman and Sweet Menthol.
British American Tobacco Kenya stated that they would either have to raise the retail price on these brands corresponding to the tax increase or cut retail prices in order to make these products be more affordable to the consumers.
“This could result in to tax losses for the local government forecasted at Sh2 billion; or a drop of 27 percent from the Sh7.4 billion estimated for 2010 down to Sh5.4 billion next year,” stated BAT Kenya.
Kenyan government has imposed “sin taxes” in an attempt to discourage tobacco consumption.
The last tax increase took place in 2008.

BAT shifts focus to export of tobacco leaves

British American Tobacco (Kenya) is diversifying into the export of semi-processed tobacco after investing Sh350 million in a processing plant to increase its revenue sources.
tobacco farmers
The firm, which begun exporting the leaf this month, has plants in South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey and Kenya serving its Middle East and African markets.
It plans to leverage on the plants in both the East African Community and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa trading blocs.
“We are targeting the trading blocs since we are placed strategically in the region in terms of the processing plants that are available,” Mr Lawrence Kimathi, finance director told the Daily Nation.
The export business will be crucial for the firm, which has seen its domestic market shrink over the past four years.
In the first half of 2010, the firm only managed to grow its market by 1.5 per cent.
According to Mr Kimathi who was speaking on the sidelines of the firm’s investor briefing in Nairobi, the initiative is expected to break even in three years.
“We expect that this area will be about 40 per cent of our portfolio and pay back on the investments to come in the third year,” he noted.
Restricted by the Tobacco Control Act, the company grew its sales by six per cent in the period.
However, it indicated that its 19 per cent growth in pre tax profit for the six months was largely attributed to the domestic market.
The firm posted Sh1.4 billion in the period compared to Sh1.2 billion it had in the previous year.
“We have witnessed an improved business operating environment, improved distribution and price stability in the market,” said Mr Gary Fagan, managing director.
In the past the listed firm has complained of a lack of uniformed enforcement of the law by the implementing agency.
This, it has claimed, is giving some of its competitor’s undue advantage as they continue with promotions and sponsorships.

Tobacco regulator faults BAT crop insurance cover

Tobacco in Africa
Cigarette maker, British American Tobacco (BAT), will on Monday afternoon know its fate as the control board meets to determine what action to take on the firm over a crop insurance policy that the State agency says is illegal.
The crop policy developed by UAP Insurance in partnership with Chancery Wright was recently introduced to farmers in Western Province contracted by BAT.
But Kenya Tobacco Control Board reckons that BAT and UAP have gone against the anti tobacco legislation introduced in 2007 which bars the promotion of cigarettes.

Common position

“I cannot on my own say the specific action we will take, but we are meeting as a board so as to take a common position. Several options are open to the board and we will make sure that BAT and UAP Insurance do not get away with this because we have the law on our side,” said Prof Peter Odhiambo, the chairman of the board.
“We will deal firmly with companies that collude with cigarette manufacturers to break the law. Insuring tobacco farmers is another way of increasing the production of tobacco which is detrimental to public health. Farmers should consider alternative crops,” said Prof Odhiambo.
The possible action the state agency might take include stopping the marketing of the insurance cover and taking the twin firms to court in what promises to be a protracted legal battle as both UAP and BAT are digging in for a fight.
“The Tobacco Control Act does not dictate what crops anyone should grow neither does it dictate the parameters of business association or communication between industry players. It is, therefore, perfectly legitimate for us to engage with our contracted farmers and continually work together for their welfare” said Julie Adell-Owino –head of corporate and regulatory affairs, for BAT Kenya.
Already, about 1,000 farmers contracted by the multinationals have signed up for the product, most being from Western, Nyanza and Eastern provinces.
In 2007, the government enacted an anti tobacco law which among other things outlawed smoking in public as well as promoting of tobacco and its by-products—a move that saw BAT stop advertisement and sports promotion.
The Tobacco Control Act 2007 gives authority to the regulator to control smoking in public places and prohibit the promotion of tobacco products through the media and the sale of cigarettes to children.
Anti tobacco activists and lawyers said punishing BAT and UAP insurance will be down to the interpretation of the law since the Act does not expressly bar farmers from taking out insurance cover for their crops.
Anti tobacco crusaders say the new insurance product marketed by BAT and UAP Insurance violates section 24 of the Act which prohibits the promotion of tobacco products by means of testimonials or endorsements.
“The new product violates the law, because it is an indirect advertisement of tobacco that is likely to influence and shape attitudes, beliefs and behaviour of the public, while underestimating the dangers of tobacco,” said Mr Vincent Kimosop, a lawyer at the Institute of Legislative Affairs.
But BAT Kenya rejected the claims saying its contracted farmers have incurred financial losses to the magnitude of Sh150 million over the past three years and that crop losses due to natural calamities have impacted the accuracy of planning and forecasting as it gets less than expected crop leaf.
“Our contracted tobacco farmers make the choice to take up the crop insurance, and are not compelled to do so. If any party were forcing the hand of the tobacco farmers, then all 5,000 of BAT contracted tobacco farmer would have had to take up the cover rather than the 1,000 who have voluntarily done so,” said Ms Adell-Owino.
BAT says earnings by its contracted tobacco farmers have been on the increase pointing to the benefits of the crop to farmers in Nyanza and Western regions.
In 2008, BAT paid its contracted farmers Sh369 million while in 2009, it paid Sh532 million and this year’s projection pegged at Sh660 million.

British American Tobacco 1Q Volumes Drop 4%

LONDON -British American Tobacco PLC (BATS.LN) Wednesday posted an accelerating decline in cigarette volumes forBAT the first quarter as lower consumer spending in the global economic downturn hit sales of its cigarette brands.
“Our consumers are clearly finding economic conditions difficult, and volumes suffered as a result of market size declines,” said Chief Executive Paul Adams in a statement.
The London-based tobacco company said in a trading update that its revenue growth in the three months to March 31 was “solid”, despite a 1% drop in cigarette volumes. Stripping out acquisitions, volumes were 4% lower, compared with a 2.4% drop in the previous quarter.
The revenue growth was driven instead by strong price rises and the acquisition of PT Bentoel in Indonesia in June last year. Revenue has benefited further from the impact of exchange rates, the company said.
“There was continued pricing momentum and good growth in market shares, leading to solid revenue growth,” added Adams. “We remain on track for the year.”
The volume figures were a little softer than expected, said Nomura analyst David Hayes. He had expected a volume drop of about 3.2%, given difficulties in Turkey, Brazil and Japan. He is still confident however that volumes will improve as the year progresses.
The company’s shares remained flat at 2140 pence at 0715 GMT having dropped almost 8% since early March on fears of stagnating volumes. The company said in February that the worst of the recession had passed as it posted a 10% rise in full-year profit.
The company said Wednesday it had achieved a good performance despite lower industry volumes in a number of important markets, such as Japan, Brazil, Russia, Romania and Turkey.
It said rising levels of unemployment, together with increases in excise had hit the premium segment, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, while down-trading to illicit cigarettes had hit the low-price segment.
The company said that despite these difficulties, it had grown its market share compared with the previous quarter, while volumes of its four key brands–Dunhill,, and–grew 6%.
By Michael Carolan