Philip Morris Pays $1.5bn for Control Over UK’s Vectura

Marlboro producer Philip Morris (PMI) made a step toward its announced long term plan to develop smoke-free products and turn itself into a broader healthcare and wellness company, Financial Times reports.

The US cigarette maker signed on Thursday $1.5bn takeover of British asthma inhaler maker Vectura after winning the support of the company’s shareholders who took the 165 pence-per-share offer from PMI.

After the owners of 45.6% of Vectura’s shares accepted PMI’s takeover offer, the tobacco company has bought another 29.2 per cent of the company’s shares in the market, hence securing 74.8% stake which makes it the majority owner and its offer for the business unconditional.

According to PMI Chief Executive Jacek Olczak, buying Vectura was a critical part of his strategy to move the company toward ‘Beyond Nicotine’ strategy and have set a goal of generating at least $1 billion in net revenue from “Beyond Nicotine” products by 2025.

In that context, PMI’s plans involve providing Vectura’s scientists with the resources and expertise to reach that goal.

The tobacco giant has invested more than $8.0 billion since 2008 in smoke-free products like vaping, which it says is less harmful than smoking.

The deal provoked the ire of angered health groups adamant that a tobacco group should not own a company that cures the very respiratory illnesses cigarettes cause.

Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation have sent a letter- co-signed by 35 charities, public health experts and clinicians- urging the UK government to look into any conflict of interest issues.

They’ve asked public health minister Jo Churchill to consider if intervention in the transaction is needed  by the Competition and Markets Authority, but that seem fruitless since PMI has received regulatory clearances for the deal following the public tender process.

Its Chief Executive Sarah Woolnough underscored there’s a real risk that this deal would lead to the cigarette industry wielding undue influence on UK health policy, but Olczak accused them of settling old scores with the tobacco industry and stressed that they’re not interested in progress.

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