• The Associated Press

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Japan Tobacco finished the takeover of Britain’s Gallaher Group for $15 billion Wednesday, both sides said, in the biggest Japanese overseas acquisition ever.

The move also allows Japan Tobacco Inc., the world’s third-largest cigarette company, to expand outside of Japan, which has seen declining smoking rates.

The takeover of Gallaher, the maker of Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges cigarettes, also takes Japan Tobacco into Western Europe, where it now has little presence, creating a tobacco empire with annual global output of 600 billion cigarettes.

Japan Tobacco, the overseas distributor for Winston, Camel and Salem cigarettes, and Gallaher Group PLC had been expected to complete the deal, announced in December.

JT acquired the shares at £11.40 each, for a total of £7.5 billion, or $15 billion, and assumed an additional debt of about $4 billion under the deal, the company said.

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