© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at British American Tobacco’s London offices, in London, UK, Jan. 15, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Richa Naidu

LONDON (Reuters) – British American Tobacco Plc is in advanced talks to transfer its Russian operations to Russia’s SNS Group of Companies, its distributor, SNS, said after Moscow suggested it nationalize assets of foreign companies that had left the country.

Many international companies with investments or activities in Russia have withdrawn since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24 and imposed sweeping sanctions on the West.

BAT (LON:), which makes Pall Mall and Rothman’s cigarettes, controls just under 25% of the Russian tobacco market.

“The process to transfer control of BAT’s business in Russia to SNS GC is underway with remarkable speed,” an SNS spokesperson told Reuters, adding that the transfer details were under negotiation.

BAT declined to comment Friday.

BAT said last week it was looking for parties interested in transferring its Russian operations.

Chief Marketing Officer Kingsley Wheaton had said at the time that BAT’s distributor might be interested in a transfer, adding that leaving the company or ceasing sales or production would be seen by Russia as a criminal bankruptcy with legal ramifications.

The SNS spokesperson said the level of production and supply and distribution chain would be maintained with a transfer.

It was not immediately clear whether BAT would withdraw completely, or whether SNS would still provide raw materials or production support.

According to the SNS website, SNS started working with BAT as a distributor in 1993.

A tobacco industry expert said BAT’s move had taken those working with the company in Russia by surprise.

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This post Tobacco company BAT in talks to transfer Russian activities to distributor SNS By Reuters

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