BAT plans 2,300 job cuts as tobacco companies face pressure

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GENEVA (Sept 12): British American Tobacco Plc plans to cut 2,300 jobs as cigarette sales continue to decline in major markets and US President Donald Trump vows to tighten restrictions on new alternatives to smoking.

BAT expects to complete the job cuts, which will affect one in five management positions, by January, the company said Thursday. The company employed more than 95,000 people in 2018.

Five months into the job, Chief Executive Officer Jack Bowles is setting out to transform BAT as the company faces pressure to jump-start its underperforming portfolio of cigarette alternatives. As tobacco companies struggle to deal with the shift in smoking to vaping, rival Japan Tobacco Inc recently announced plans to eliminate 3,720 positions over three years.

The move also comes as after rival Philip Morris International Inc said it approached Altria Group Inc about reuniting after a split about a decade ago. The move would create a global tobacco giant that would dwarf BAT.

BAT has tempered the outlook for growth of smoking alternatives. The cost-saving program will help the company reach its goal of getting 5 billion pounds in revenue from new products by 2023 or 2024, the company said.

Shares of the London-based company have lost about half of their value since their peak in 2017 after the US Food and Drug Administration said it might require cigarette makers to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels. The FDA also made pronouncements against menthol in cigarettes, though hasn’t followed it up with new restrictions.

Menthol cigarettes sold in the US account for about a quarter of BAT’s profit.