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ITC becomes world’s 3rd most valuable tobacco company after London-based BAT sinks

In a significant market shift, ITC Ltd has emerged as the third most valuable tobacco company globally, overtaking British American Tobacco (BAT). The transition follows a sell-off in BAT shares, underscoring ITC’s dynamic business diversification.

Historical Journey

  • 1910: ITC originated as the Imperial Tobacco Co of India Ltd, a subsidiary of the British parent, in a modest office on Radha Bazar Lane in central Calcutta.
  • 1926: The company acquired a plot on Chowringhee, relocating its office to the present-day Virginia House.

Evolution of ITC

  • As ownership gradually shifted to Indian hands, the company underwent name changes, becoming India Tobacco Company Limited in 1970 and later I.T.C. Limited in 1974.

BAT’s Involvement

  • BAT Plc, formed in 1902 through a joint venture of American Tobacco Co Ltd and Imperial Tobacco Co Ltd, holds a substantial 29.04% stake in ITC, valued at $19.9 billion.
  • Despite being classified as foreign direct investment, FDI restrictions on tobacco companies in India limit BAT’s options.

ITC’s Market Capitalization and Growth

  • As of the latest trading day, ITC boasts a market capitalization of $68.6 billion, outperforming BAT, which stands at $64.9 billion.
  • ITC’s stock has experienced a remarkable upward trend, gaining 34.7% in one year and an impressive 125.5% in three years.

Diversification Strategy

  • ITC’s diversification from tobacco to FMCG, hotels, papers, and agri-products has fueled investor confidence.
  • The tobacco business now constitutes only 37% of ITC’s gross revenue but remains a significant contributor, constituting 78% of the company’s profit before tax.

BAT’s Challenges and Industry Shift

  • BAT faced a downturn as its stock hit multi-year lows, plummeting 10% after a $31.5 billion write-down of the value of some US cigarette brands.
  • This move underscores a global trend among tobacco majors, emphasizing non-combustible products like vapes to adapt to stringent health regulations and changing consumer preferences.
  • BAT aims to generate half its revenue from non-combustible products by 2035.

Important Questions Related to Exams

Q: Why has ITC Ltd become the third most valuable tobacco company globally, surpassing British American Tobacco (BAT)?

A: ITC’s ascent is attributed to its diversified business strategy, including FMCG, hotels, papers, and agri-products, contrasting with BAT’s challenges amid a $31.5 billion write-down on US cigarette brands.

Q: What is the key factor driving investor confidence in ITC?

A: ITC’s robust stock performance, gaining 34.7% in one year and 125.5% in three years, reflects investor optimism fueled by the company’s diversification, rising FMCG profitability, and growth in the hospitality segment.

Q: How does BAT’s significant stake in ITC impact its market dynamics?

A: BAT holds a 29.04% stake in ITC, valued at $19.9 billion, yet faces limitations due to India’s restrictions on foreign direct investment in tobacco. BAT’s stock struggles amid a global industry shift towards non-combustible products.

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