British American Tobacco is hoping to muscle its way further into the US market by buying the 58% of Reynolds American that it doesn't already own. BAT has offered cash and stock valued at $56.50 a share, a 20% premium to Reynolds' share price.
The deal, which would create the world's largest publicly listed tobacco company, is "the latest blockbuster consolidation attempt in big tobacco", say Arash Massoudi and James Fontanella-Khan in the Financial Times. Last year Imperial Tobacco acquired $7bn worth of US brands from Reynolds and Lorillard. This boosted its profits by 15%, offsetting falling sales elsewhere.
Perhaps surprisingly, the US is once more an attractive market for tobacco companies, despite fewer people smoking profits there rose by 10% last year. The country is "expected to be a key driver of sales growth, with low pack prices, a dominant e-cigarette market and waning fears of litigation costs", says the FT. Hence shareholders seem to approve. BAT's shares rose to an all-time high on Friday, though they have since slipped back.
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One person who almost certainly will be happy is Susan Cameron, Reynolds' long-serving chief executive. According to Ben Martin in The Daily Telegraph, she is "in line for a share windfall of at least £12m" from her 269,001 shares in the firm.
Troubled times at Cobham, the defence contractor best known for pioneering military air-to-air refuelling systems. This week it suffered the indignity of issuing a second profit warning for the year, sending shares into a nosedive. Two senior members of staff have been dismissed after "mistakes" that cost the company £9m. Chief executive Bob Murphy says he is "hangin' in there", reports the FT's Lombard column, but "not for long". Both he and Simon Nicholls, the finance director "will be replaced by January", after being given their marching orders earlier in the year.
Nicholl's planned move to Wolseley was also cancelled in May after investors in the plumbing supplies firm protested, says The Daily Telegraph, reportedly because of the issues at Cobham. Murphy will be replaced by David Lockwood, now head of electronics firm Laird, who "may kitchen sink' large parts of the business as he tries to make a fresh start".
Bankers at Goldman Sachs are not known for their nervousness. They're supposed to be the alpha males of the financial world, swaggering about the place flaunting their conspicuous wealth. However, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman's chief executive, has admitted in an interview with CNN that tighter regulation has left him "scared to death". He lives in fear that a rogue employee will tarnish the name of both the bank and himself, engulfing it in a scandal. His fear has left him "on edge all the time".
John Lewis has appointed its first female boss in its 152-year history, as Paula Nickolds moves from commercial director to managing director. Nickolds has been with the firm for 22 years, starting as a graduate trainee in 1994, and joining the board as buying and brand director in 2013. The current MD, Andy Street, is leaving to pursue a political career, standing as a candidate for mayor of the West Midlands.
Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.
Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.
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