Phillip Morris swoops

Marlboro cigarette giant seals deal for inhaler firm

Phillip Morris manufactures top brands (pic: Luc Van Loon)

Marlboro cigarette maker Philip Morris International (PMI) has completed its controversial £1.1 billion takeover of the UK inhaler firm Vectura.

PMI said its £1.65 per share bid had secured support from holders of almost three-quarters of Vectura’s shares.

Vectura makes inhaled medicines and devices to treat respiratory illnesses such as asthma and had been urged by health groups to reject PMI’s approaches.

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “Vectura has sold out millions of people with lung disease, and instead prioritised short-term financial gain over the long-term viability of Vectura as a business.

She added that the fact Vectura is now owned by a tobacco company could cause “considerable problems”, such as the firm being excluded from research trials.

However, PMI argued that it is on the journey to healthier products and that this deal represents a key milestone.

Danni Hewson AJ Bell financial analyst, said: “Despite the ethical outcry, Vectura shareholders have succumbed to Big Tobacco’s big pockets. 

“It will raise a few eyebrows not least because the deal was seen as a chance to weigh up exactly how some of the city’s big names were really walking the ESG walk they’ve talked so loudly about embracing.

“Phillip Morris was relentless, it needed to be if it’s going to stand any chance of making good on its plans to generate at least $1bn from “Beyond Nicotine” products by 2025.

“However good Phillip Morris’s intentions the bottom line is with this acquisition it’s playing both sides, making money from tobacco which makes people sick and inhalers which help them feel better.

“This takeover has been uncomfortable.  It’s posed difficult questions and many people won’t like the answer that’s been delivered.  But there is precedent, the world expects big oil to use their deep pockets to transform global energy strategies, from a purely pragmatic perspective shouldn’t we embrace the same ethos in this situation? 

“Phillip Morris isn’t ignoring the elephant; it’s making us all take a long hard look.  Discomfort is good, it tends to deliver change, but care must be taken that the promised change does come and there are no detours on the journey.”

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