British American Tobacco - Our history – a timeline

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Our history – a timeline

We were founded in 1902 – find out we’ve evolved since then

  • 1902


    When the UK’s Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company of the United States form a joint venture, the British American Tobacco Company. James ‘Buck’ Duke becomes the company’s first chairman. His strategy is to devise a superior product, hire the best people to make it, price it as low as possible, and mechanise production.

  • 19041911


    A period of rapid expansion sees us develop markets in the West Indies, India, Ceylon, Egypt, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Indonesia, East Africa and Malaya.

  • 1905


    The acquisition of a majority share in Cairo-based cigarette manufacturer, Maspero Freres Company, allows us to expand our export trade of cigarettes made from Turkish tobacco into India and Europe.

  • 1910


    Our cigarettes sales now exceed 10 billion per year.

  • 1912


    The American Tobacco Company divests its shares in the joint venture and we are listed on the London Stock Exchange for the first time.

  • 1915


    Sales total 25 billion cigarettes per year, as the additional demand from the armed forces for tobacco stretches our manufacturing capacity to the limit

  • 1921


    Cigarrera Bigott Sucs is formed in Venezuela and, in the following few years, acquisitions are made in Chile, Mexico and Central America.

  • 1927


    Our 25th anniversary. We have become one of the UK’s leading companies, with 120 subsidiaries.

  • 1932


    We have factories in most countries and develop independent distribution networks, which become fully-fledged subsidiaries. Leaf-growing and manufacturing operations are established in India, China, Brazil and Nigeria and Haus Bergmann is acquired in Germany.

  • 1939


    The outbreak of the Second World War severely disrupts our global operations.

  • 1942

    Our History 1942

    Profits that were static at £5.5 million right through the depression go down to £3 million until the war ends.

  • 19531955

    Our History 1953-1955

    A return to growth sees us rank third among British, French and German companies, measured by company profits.

  • 1960


    Global sales exceed 280 billion cigarettes with trading profits of more than £58 million.

  • 19611965

    Our History 1961-1965

    We begin to diversify with moves into the paper, cosmetics and food industries.

  • 1966


    We acquire cigar manufacturer Henri Wintermans and company profits exceed £100 million for the first time.

  • 19701973


    We move into retailing with acquisitions, including Argos in the UK and Saks Fifth Avenue in the USA.

  • 1976


    BAT Industries is formed. Within two years it is the UK’s third biggest company. Annual sales increase to 500 billion cigarettes.

  • 1981


    Trading profits from the tobacco operations triple over the previous decade to more than £463 million.

  • 19841989


    BAT Industries acquires Eagle Star, Allied Dunbar and Farmers Group to become the largest UK-based insurance group.

  • 1992

    Our History 1992

    Hungary’s Pecsi Dohanygyar is acquired. Acquisitions and joint ventures follow rapidly in Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the Czech Republic, Russia, Romania and Poland.

  • 1994


    The prestigious Lucky Strike and Pall Mall brands are now added to our portfolio, with the acquisition of the American Tobacco Company.

  • 1998


    BAT Industries divests its financial services businesses. British American Tobacco becomes a separately quoted company on the London Stock Exchange.

  • 1999

    Our History 1999

    Following a global merger with Rothmans International we gain several major brands, including Dunhill.

  • 2001


    New investments in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Vietnam and South Korea.

  • 2004


    Brown & Williamson and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company combine and Reynolds American is formed – a stronger, more sustainable business in which we have a 42% share.

  • 2008


    We acquire the assets of Tekel, the Turkish state tobacco company.

  • 2011


    Major acquisition of Protabaco in Colombia for US$452 million. The Group establishes Nicoventures Limited, a company to focus exclusively on the development and commercialisation of innovative, regulatory approved nicotine products.

  • 2012


    UK-based company CN Creative, who specialise in the development of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) technologies, are acquired.

  • 2013


    CTBAT International Limited, a joint investment of subsidiaries of China National Tobacco Corporation and British American Tobacco commences trading. The Group launches its first e-cigarette product, Vype, in the UK.

  • 2014


    The Group announces it will invest US$4.7 billion as part of Reynolds American Inc.'s acquisition of Lorillard. The deal means we will maintain our 42% stake in the enlarged and substantially stronger Reynolds American business in the US.

  • 2015

    Vype eTank

    We complete a number of investments and strategic partnerships focused on future growth. The Group acquires TDR in Croatia, the leading independent cigarette manufacturer in Central Europe. We also acquire the remaining shares in our Brazilian subsidiary, Souza Cruz, that we don’t already own.

    Highlighting our commitment to lead in Next Generation Products, we acquire CHIC Group, a market-leading Vapour Product (e-cigarette) business in Poland. We continue to develop Vype with new products and expansion into new markets, and we launch our first Tobacco Heating Product, glo iFuse, in Romania.

  • 2016


    BAT makes proposal to acquire remaining 57.8% of Reynolds American Inc. it doesn’t already own.

    Our commitment to Next Generation Products continues with the acquisition of Ten Motives, a UK e-cigarette company.

    Vype Vapour Products become available in new markets and our first Vype-branded flagship store opens in Milan.

    BAT launches glo, a new-to-world Tobacco Heating Product, in Sendai, Japan.

  • 2017

    January – BAT announces agreement to acquire Reynolds American Inc.

    Our glo Tobacco Heating Product launches in Switzerland and Canada

    July – BAT completes acquisition of Reynolds American Inc.

  • 2018


    BAT is one of just 13 companies to be recognised as a Global Top Employer 2018 by the Top Employers Institute.

    The Group’s 2018 annual and sustainability reports underline BAT’s commitment to ‘transforming tobacco’ by offering an unrivalled suite of potentially reduced-risk products to adult consumers.

    After nearly 37 years with BAT, and eight as CEO Nicandro Durante informs the Board of his intention to retire in 2019. Chief Operating Officer Jack Bowles, who joined BAT’s Management Board in 2009, is announced as his successor.

  • 2019

    DJSI Logo

    Jack Bowles takes over as Chief Executive on 1 April. “It is an exciting time for me to take over as Chief Executive. Our industry is evolving and with this comes great opportunity,” he says.

    BAT is listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) for the 18th consecutive year – and is once again named as industry leader in the DJSI’s most prestigious World Index.

  • 2020

    Jack Bowles

    Chief Executive Jack Bowles sets out BAT’s evolved strategy in March. At the heart of the strategy is our purpose to build A Better Tomorrow by reducing the health impact of our business through offering a greater choice of enjoyable and less risky products for our consumers.

    BAT becomes the first company in the tobacco industry to release a Human Rights Report. The report highlights BAT’s commitment and actions to protect human rights across our business.

  • 2021


    Luc Jobin succeeded Richard Burrows as Chairman of BAT, following the conclusion of the company’s AGM on 28 April. See Luc Jobin’s profile.

    BAT’s Vuse becomes the world’s first global carbon neutral vape brand1. This world-first achievement marked the latest step in BAT’s ambitious target to be carbon neutral across its own operations by 2030.

  1. Based on ePod, ePen, eTank mini, Alto devices and consumables internal sales forecast (calculated March 2021) for 12 months starting from April 2021.