British American Tobacco aiming at 70 million African smokers with Twisp deal

British American Tobacco's acquisition of South African e-cigarette maker Twisp paves the way for targeting 70 million adult African smokers to switch to vaping products, BAT Southern Africa chief executive Soraya Benchikh said on Wednesday.

BAT's proposed acquisition of Twisp won approval from SA's Competition Tribunal on Tuesday after the UK-based group agreed to a series of conditions.

Twisp is a multi-channel distributor of vaping products and flavours in South Africa. With close to 70 dedicated stores nationally, Twisp generates more than 50 000 consumer interactions per month, according to a statement issued by BAT.

"South Africa is the most profitable market in value in the African continent, with 10.9 million smokers and a total adult population of 38 million people," said Benchikh.

"The vaping market has grown exponentially in recent years, and it is estimated that 1.5 million South African adults have already interacted with potentially reduced risk products, mainly in vaping." 

About 9 million consumers globally have already switched to these "potentially reduced risk" products, and the company is experiencing strong growth in Europe, Asia and in the US in new categories, the statement added.

In the last 24 months, BAT has accelerated its pace with strategic acquisitions, including VIP in the UK in 2017; and Highendsmoke in Germany in 2018.

Recent years have seen vaping increase in popularity, particularly among adolescents. While some experts argue it dramatically reduces the risk associated with smoking, critics say the long-term effects are unclear. 

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