Innovator at work

BIG Tobacco is about to get even bigger. On October 21st British American Tobacco (BAT) announced that it had bid $47bn for the 58% of Reynolds American that it does not already own. Though Brexit has weighed on some British companies, BAT is unencumbered, with most of its revenue earned overseas. Many investors expect the deal to go ahead, although BAT might need to puff up its offer. BAT would then become the world’s largest tobacco company by sales and profits.

As in other volume businesses, like beer, some of the merger logic is simply to cut costs. With consolidation, BAT reckons its deal would generate $400m of annual savings. However, it also underscores two big, long-term changes for cigarette-makers.

The first is that America has become an attractive market for tobacco firms and buying Reynolds, whose brands include Camel and Newport, is the easiest way for BAT to grow there. This is a reversal from the recent past. Not long ago America seemed stale and overrun by lawsuits, particularly compared with fast-growing economies. Cigarette firms quarantined their American businesses. In 2004…Continue reading