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Imperial Tobacco: Sometimes a Cigar Is Just a Reason for Regime Change

Imperial Tobacco’s $15 billion takeover of Altadis already has looked pretty smart. Will it be even smarter now that Fidel Castro has resigned as the leader of Cuba?

If you had asked Altadis a year ago, the answer probably would have been yes. Altadis has the world’s biggest share of cigar sales and owns a 50% stake in Cuba’s state-owned Habanos SA, which makes Cohiba cigars. But Altadis can’t sell those prized cigars in the U.S. because of the country’s trade limits on Cuba. If Castro’s successor-–most likely his brother–-is more favorable to U.S. officials, Altadis could be sitting on a gold mine. It already has 25% share of the cigar market, or about twice as much as its closest competitor.

Imperial already had reason to crow about its Altadis purchase. It owns about 98% of Altadis, and Morgan Stanley now expects the company to get about 350 million euros in synergies from the deal, or 50 million euros more than expected. Imperial also is planning a five-billion-pound rights issue to finance the deal; will investors be lured to that sale by the prospect of the company’s growth in Cuba?

Of course, caveats abound. Castro’s successor may be no more friendly to U.S. interests than Castro. The U.S. embargo may remain. And we are assuming the U.S. government has given up on its tobacco-based methods of assassination for Fidel, which included an exploding cigar and one laced with poisonous chemicals.

Businesses hold few hopes of more trade soon [WSJ]
How the CIA has tried to assassinate Fidel Castro [The Guardian]

Source: Wall Street Journal