BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO (BAT) announced on January 17th a final deal to buy Reynolds American for $49bn. BAT already owns 42% of Reynolds; buying the rest of it will create the world’s largest listed tobacco company by sales and profits. It will peddle brands such as Dunhill, Camel and Newport. The casual observer might imagine the deal to be a frantic bid to revive an ailing industry. On the contrary. Cigarettes may kill you, but the big companies that make them are rather healthy.
That is despite a decline in smoking rates. In 2015 just over a fifth of adults smoked, estimates the World Health Organisation, down from almost a quarter ten years earlier. This drop hardly helps companies, but it isn’t ruinous either.
Smoking is still popular in certain spots. More than three-quarters of men light up in Indonesia, for example. The habit is becoming more common among men in Africa and the eastern…Continue reading