Dilemma of BAT: Slayed Camel is the Last Straw to Crush Investors

BAT by 2FIRSTS.ai
Dec.11.2023
Dilemma of BAT: Slayed Camel is the Last Straw to Crush Investors
English tobacco company faces difficult choices as traditional business struggles and new sustainable ventures emerge.

In industries such as tobacco that are facing long-term decline, companies are confronted with critical strategic choices. They can extract maximum value from traditional assets, divest their equity, or they can seek to build new sustainable businesses.

 

Attempting to do both of these things brings about execution risks. The British American Tobacco company is facing a dilemma.

 

Its traditional business - which accounts for more than 85% of its total sales and generates all of its profits - is facing difficulties. BAT prefers to describe it as its burning business rather than tobacco. On Wednesday (December 6th), it disclosed market data which showed that the $2.5 billion write-down of assets in its US division and lower growth expectations have "incinerated" nearly one-tenth of the company's value.

 

Especially in the United States, the surge in living costs and the emergence of disposable e-cigarettes have led to an 11% decline in cigarette sales in 2022. Tobacco companies like British American Tobacco have introduced luxury brands such as Camel to the consumer market, but they have not performed well.

 

The company's sales are expected to only meet the lower end of the 3-5% growth range this year. However, increasing prices has become challenging as sales have significantly declined. British American Tobacco currently projects below-average growth trends until 2026, which is also a factor reflected in its stock price.

 

In the rather murky world of accounting, this signifies that the conglomerate no longer considers its American brand to have perpetual value. By shortening its economic lifespan to 30 years, British American Tobacco has reduced the evaluation of its American brand from £67 billion to £25 billion, which was assessed when it acquired Reynolds American in 2017.

 

In a significant move, the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) invested $49.4 billion to acquire an additional 57.8% stake, thereby surpassing a total enterprise value of $100 billion, including debt. Although this write-down does not impact cash flow, it still represents half of British American Tobacco's current market capitalization.

 

E-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and modern oral nicotine pouches are expected to break even this year, earlier than anticipated.

 

In reality, these smaller-scale businesses require a significant investment in marketing expenses, which has weakened their profit margins. The government's skepticism towards smokeless products also does not help improve the situation. Nevertheless, the British American Tobacco company still hopes for the popularity of smokeless products before the tobacco market phases out.

 

Given the poor shareholder return this year, even with a 10% yield, only a decrease in global interest rates can attract investors back to British American Tobacco.

 

Disclaimer: 
This article is translated from an original Chinese article available on 2firsts.cn by AI, and has been reviewed and edited by 2FIRSTS's English editorial team. The Chinese original text is the only authoritative source of information. The exclusive copyright and license rights to this article are held by 2FIRSTS Technology Co., Ltd. Any reproduction, reprinting, or redistribution of this article, either in part or in full, requires express written permission from 2FIRSTS and must include clear attribution along with a link to this content. Non-compliance may result in legal action. 2FIRSTS Technology Co., Ltd. reserves the right to pursue legal actions in case of unauthorized use or distribution.

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