BAT has been under pressure to return more cash to shareholders (Photo: Bloomberg)


By Andy Hoffman


British American Tobacco Plc. started a £1.6 billion ($2 billion) buyback program after selling part of its stake in India’s ITC Ltd.

 


The maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes, Vuse vapes and Velo nicotine pouches said Monday that net proceeds of the ITC stake sale totaled £1.57 billion and that it will buy back as much as £1.6 billion of its own shares this year and next. 


The London-listed company said it will purchase £700 million of its shares in 2024 and £900 million by the end of 2025. 

It still owns a 25% stake in ITC, the Indian conglomerate that’s the country’s top cigarette maker and also runs a number of other businesses including food products and packaging. 


BAT has been under pressure to return more cash to shareholders. It recently took a writedown of more than £27 billion on the value of its US cigarette brands as more smokers give up the habit, with many switching to alternatives like vapes, nicotine pouches and heated tobacco sticks.


What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:


BAT’s ongoing share-buyback program (£700 million in 2024 and £900 million in 2025) — funded by proceeds of £1.57 billion raised from the sale of its ITC stake — demonstrates confidence in robust cash flow being able to reduce net debt to management’s new 2-2.5x net debt-to-Ebitda target. That’s while the company continues to invest in next-generation products, which it anticipates will make up 50% of revenue (vs. 16.5% currently) by 2035.

After calls from an activist shareholder to exit its London listing, the company has ruled out a move to a US listing as it “would create a lot of distraction internally,” Chief Executive Officer Tadeu Marroco said in an interview with the Financial Times over the weekend.

First Published: Mar 18 2024 | 3:39 PM IST



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