The tobacco and cigarette industries are some of the biggest in the world. While there is no exact figure as to the industry’s revenue, it is probably safe to estimate that it reaches an amount of close to half a trillion dollars every year. If the industry were a country, its gross domestic product, or GDP, would be equivalent to that of oil giants Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, or of the European countries of Sweden and Poland.
Critics pound the industry because of the burden it lays on the health care systems of governments around the world. This is despite the fact that it also contributes a major amount of revenue to government coffers. In China, the industry accounts for seven percent of the total revenue of the government.
Privatization, mergers and acquisitions have resulted into the consolidation of the industry. There are now only five major private players, namely Altria/Philip Morris USA, Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco. Additionally, there are 16 state-owned companies from different countries, the largest of which is the China National Tobacco Corporation.
Despite all the negative publicity and the banning in the advertising of cigarette products, these companies continue to flourish as they have learned to diversify into other areas of tobacco technology. As a result, these companies remain to be among the most profitable in the world today.
So how much do these tobacco firms rake in? Here now is a list of the top cigarette companies in the world based on revenues, along with some of its more popular brands.
Altria/Philip Morris USA – $23.8 billion
The Altria Group Inc. was formerly known as Philip Morris Companies Inc. Based in Henrico County in Virginia. It is the parent company of Philip Morris USA, as well as the US Smokeless Tobacco Company, John Middleton Inc., Philip Morris Capital Corporation and Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. It earned revenues of $23.8 billion, with a net income of $3.39 billion. Some of its more famous brands include Basic, Benson & Hedges, Black & Mild, Bond Street, Cambridge, Chesterfield, Classic, f6, L&M, Marlboro, Merit, Next, Papastratos, Parliament, Players, SG, and Virginia Slims. It is considered as the second most active lobbying organization in the United States, having spent $101 million in lobbying money from 1998 to 2004.
British American Tobacco – $24.5 billion
British American Tobacco plc is a multinational tobacco company based in London in the United Kingdom. The company was established in 1902 as a joint venture between Imperial Tobacco Company of the United Kingdom and American Tobacco Company of the United States. The two companies agreed to refrain from trading in each other’s domestic markets, and to assign trademarks, export businesses and overseas subsidiaries to the joint venture. Thus, the company was able to establish a presence in Canada, South Africa, Germany, China, Australia and New Zealand, but not in the United States and the United Kingdom. Eventually, the two companies divested its shares in favor of other owners. In 1999, it merged with Rothmans International. Its more popular products include brands like Dunhill, Lucky Strike, Kent and Pall Mall. It also owns Kool, Benson & Hedges and Rothmans. It has 55,000 employees worldwide.
Imperial Tobacco – $46.08 billion
The Imperial Tobacco Group plc is a multinational tobacco company based in Bristol in the United Kingdom. The company was established in 1901 after the merger of 13 British tobacco and cigarette companies. It is considered as the largest producer of cigars, fine cut tobacco and tobacco papers in the world. The company produces over 320 billion cigarettes every year through its 51 factories around the world. It has a presence in over 160 countries globally. Some of the company’s more famous brands include Ducados, Brandon’s, Carlton, Crowns, Davidoff, Embassy, Excellence, Fortuna, Gauloises, Gitanes, John Player & Sons, John Player Special, Lambert & Butler, Mark Fernyhough, Moon, Parker & Simpson, Peter Jackson, Prima, R1, Regal, Richmond, Rodeo, Route 66, Royale, Superkings and West. Additionally, it produces all of Japan Tobacco’s products in Australia, including Camel, More, and Mild Seven. It also produces Peter Stuyvesant in collaboration with British American Tobacco. The company earned $46.08 billion, with an operating income of $2.45 billion and net income of $1.13 billion. Additionally, the company also produces Montecristo; Golden Virginia, which is the largest selling hand rolling tobacco in the world; Drum, which is the second largest selling fine cut tobacco in the world; and Rizla, the best selling rolling paper in the world.
Japan Tobacco International – $65.9 billion
Japan Tobacco International is a leading tobacco manufacturer based in Geneva in Switzerland. The company is the international arm of Japan Tobacco, and it was formed after Japan Tobacco purchased the international operations of R.J. Reynolds for $7.8 blllion. Some of the company’s more famous products are Winston, the second best selling brand in the world; Mild Seven, the top selling charcoal filter cigarette; Camel, Benson & Hedges; Silk Cut; Glamour; LD; and Sobranie.
Philip Morris International – $76.34 billion
Philip Morris International is a spin-off of the Altria Group that has a presence in over 200 countries. It has 15.6 percent of the cigarette market outside the United States. The company is based in New York but it does not operate in the United States, with its brands there owned by Altria. Some of its brands include Marlboro, U Mild, Philip Morris, Red and White, Basic, Chesterfield, Parliament, Lark, Merit, Muratti, and Virginia Slims. It also has collaboration with other tobacco companies, like Benson & Hedges with Japan Tobacco and British American Tobacco.
China National Tobacco Corporation – $91.7 billion
China National Tobacco Corporation is a tobacco firm based in Beijing. It is owned by the Chinese government and enjoys a virtual monopoly of the industry in the biggest nation in the world, which accounts for nearly a third of the world’s total consumption of cigarettes. The company manufactures 2.1 trillion of the 5.9 trillion cigarettes worldwide and controls 97 percent of the Chinese market. The remaining three percent comes from foreign sales; these three percent still accounts for 51 billion cigarettes.
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