Big Tobacco Is Back: World’s Largest Cigarette Firm Plans Hong Kong IPO
China National Tobacco Corp., a state monopoly that’s by far the biggest cigarette maker in the world, plans to list its international unit on the Hong Kong stock exchange even as pressure increases on the government to curb smoking. The unit, China Tobacco International Inc., is primarily responsible for procuring overseas tobacco leaf from countries like Brazil and Canada for the cigarette giant, which churns out four of every 10 sticks made in the world. The parent company may clock more profit than either HSBC Holdings Plc or Walmart Inc., according to a rare glimpse of financial data in 2012. The international unit accounts for a tiny portion of China Tobacco’s overall business, which has a bigger market share than the next five global tobacco companies combined. However, the listing represents a rare opening up of the state monopoly that’s facing growing domestic concerns over China’s high rates of cancer and smoking-related disease.