Japan Tobacco to acquire RAI’s Natural American Spirit in $5bn deal

BY Fraser Tennant

In a $5bn deal designed to further expand its brand portfolio, leading international tobacco company Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT Group) has entered into negotiations with the Reynolds American Inc. group of companies (RAI) to acquire the international rights to the Natural American Spirit brand name and associated trademarks.

An all cash transaction, the acquisition of the Natural American Spirit brand name is the latest big success for the JT Group in a highly competitive market following strong growth momentum in the US, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and the UK.

A leading international tobacco company, Japan Tobacco products - including internationally recognised brands such as Winston, Camel, Mevius and LD - are sold in over 120 countries. The JT Group’s revenue was ¥2.154 trillion (US$17,867m) in the fiscal year ended December 2014.

“Natural American Spirit, which has a strong and international presence in a premium priced category, will allow the JT Group to further extend its brand portfolio," said Mitsuomi Koizumi, president and chief executive of JT Group. “This strong and unique brand equity combined with an energetic and experienced team of people will further strengthen our Group’s business foundation.”

What the JT Group’s purchase does not include is the rights to the Natural American Spirit brand name and associated trademarks in the US market, US duty-free locations, US territories or in US military outlets – all of which is to be retained by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of RAI.

“Natural American Spirit has achieved excellent international growth over the past several years,” said Susan M. Cameron, RAI’s president and CEO. “When backed by the strength of the JT Group’s international distribution, sales force and manufacturing capabilities, we believe that growth trajectory will not only continue, but accelerate. We believe this sale once again demonstrates our commitment to creating value for our shareholders.”

Upon closing of the transaction, which requires the approval of regulatory authorities in a number of countries, all current international employees will become employees of the JT Group of companies.

The Japan Tobacco/RAI transaction is expected to be completed by early 2016.

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