Japan Tobacco (JT) has plenty to puff about. The company secures about 55% of the Japanese cigarette market -- the fourth largest worldwide. It holds eights of the country's top 10 brands, including Mild Seven, Seven Stars, and Caster. Globally, JT is the #3 tobacco maker, trailing Philip Morris International and BAT. Driving growth, its JT International arm, which owns Britain's Gallaher Group, makes and markets Camel, Salem, and Winston brands outside the US (once made by Reynolds American's RJR Tobacco), and others. JT also has holdings in the food and pharmaceutical industries. In 1985 the company shifted from a state monopoly to a public company; some 50% of JT is held by Japan's Minister of Finance.
Japan Tobacco operates six cigarette manufacturing plants and four factories that make tobacco related products across Japan. Outside its home country, it operates 28 factories that make cigarettes and other tobacco and tobacco-related products. Foreign subsidiaries of the company include UK-based Gallaher Ltd. (acquired in 2007) and Liggett-Ducat in Russia. Beyond tobacco, which accounts for more than 90% of the company's sales, the company is engaged in the production of processed foods and beverages through its JT Beverage and TableMark Co. subsidiaries. Japan Beverage makes canned coffee drinks (under the Roots brand), and operates beverage vending machines. TableMark, which makes and sells frozen and other processed foods, is exiting the processed fishery products business. The company is also active in the research and development of new drugs through a pharmaceutical arm, Torii Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
Japan accounts for more than 50% of the company's sales. International markets include Africa, Brazil, Europe, Malaysia, North America, and Russia. Japan Tobacco's total tobacco sales volume at home and abroad comes to about 534 billion cigarettes per year, representing nearly 9% of the global market.
Japan Tobacco saw its adjusted net fiscal 2012 (ends March) sales decline at home by more than 3% vs. the prior year, while international sales increased less than 1% over the same period. In Japan, sales volume declined as a result of the contracting adult population, stricter anti-smoking laws, higher taxes, and the impact of the massive earthquake that struck eastern Japan in March 2011. Still, profits increased at home due to price increases. Indeed, the company shipped 534 billion cigarettes in fiscal 2012 compared with 563 billion in 2011. The company's pharmaceutical business posted a nearly 8% gain in 2012 sales, while the food and beverage sales declined for the third consecutive year.
Faced with a contracting market at home, Japan Tobacco is looking to Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia for growth. To that end in late-2011 it paid $450 million to acquire the Haggar Cigarette & Tobacco Factory of Sudan and South Sudan. Haggar produces the Bringi brand of cigarettes and boasts more than 80% market share in Sudan. Its sales volume in 2010 was reportedly more than 4.5 billion cigarettes. Indeed, the international business is the profit growth engine for the group. Through additional acquisitions on ongoing investment in foreign markets Japan Tobacco hopes to grow its market share in many key markets. Among other threats to its tobacco business, JT faces volatile prices for various crops, which cause leaf tobacco costs to stay high. The company has moved to increase its control over both the price and quality of its tobacco leaf supply through a series of acquisitions and alliances. In 2009 the company acquired UK-based Tribac Leaf and two Brazilian firms in a deal valued at about $230 million. Tribac Leaf has growing operations in Malawi, Zambia, China, and India, and the Brazilian units operate in their home country. Separately, JT formed a new tobacco sourcing company -- called JTI Leaf Services --with US leaf suppliers Hail & Cotton and J.E.B. International. – less