Tobacco giants Philip Morris and Altria in talks to merge

Tobacco giants Philip Morris International and Altria are in merger talks, PMI confirmed Tuesday. Billed as a merger of equals, the deal would reunite the two companies, which separated in 2008 to focus on international and domestic markets, respectively.

While PMI noted in an official statement that there is “no assurance that any agreement or transaction will result from these discussions,” a merger would strengthen the companies’ bottom line as they face a retrenching in the tobacco industry.

A merger of the two would create a company with market value of more than $200 billion, Reuters estimated.

“Big tobacco” has faced a significant downturn since the 1990s, culminating in a historic civil litigation settlement in 1998 when the four major players — Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard — agreed to pay a total of $246 billion to 46 states over 25 years to settle lawsuits for tobacco-related healthcare costs and to fund smoking-cessation and awareness programs.

Altria has a 35 percent stake in Juul, the e-cigarette maker that has been the focus of a rise in teen vaping. That company has come under scrutiny for social media marketing practices that target young consumers, and for offering kid-friendly flavors such as mango and fruit.

Shares in PMI fell 5 percent on the news, while shares in Altria spiked by 9 percent.

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