BAT Contemplates Decreasing Ownership in Indian Company ITC to Optimize Portfolio

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British American Tobacco (BAT) plans to reduce its stake in Indian company ITC from 29.02% to about 25%.

According to a report by Indian media outlet ET, British American Tobacco (BAT), the largest shareholder in Indian company ITC, currently holds a 29.02% stake but has recently expressed intentions to reduce its stake to around 25%.

Tadeu Marroco, CEO of BAT, emphasized during an interview that the stock adjustment action will face complicated challenges due to India’s strict Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules on the tobacco industry.

Marlboro further elaborated on the two main complexities faced by the company in reducing its stakes in ITC. Firstly, the FDI rules mentioned above severely restrict foreign investment in the tobacco industry in India. Secondly, approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) adds further difficulty to the sale of shares. During the recent BAT’s annual trading update conference call, Marlboro stated to analysts that maintaining strategic influence and veto power within ITC does not actually require holding more than 25% of the shares.

Maroko emphasizes the complexity involved in divesting investments in ITC, which includes obtaining special approval from the Reserve Bank of India, undoubtedly adding bureaucratic hurdles. ITC holds a significant position in the tobacco industry in India, accounting for three-quarters of the legal cigarette market share.

Apart from the tobacco industry, ITC has emerged as the largest company in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector in India. Furthermore, it is the second-largest hotel chain in the country and the largest private agricultural business. Additionally, it holds a prominent position in the paper industry.

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