British American Tobacco Names Its Next CEO

(Bloomberg) -- British American Tobacco Plc picked a 14-year company veteran to become its new chief executive officer as tobacco companies face the possibility that smoking alternatives such as electronic cigarettes will replace their traditional products.

Chief Operating Officer Jack Bowles, 54, who has experience running the American, European and Asian regions for BAT, will replace Nicandro Durante, who steps down on April 1, the company said Tuesday, the same day that rival Imperial Brands Plc forecast its revenue from next-generation products could reach 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion) in 2020.

British American Tobacco Names Its Next CEO

Tobacco companies are searching for cigarette alternatives that have more traction with consumers, such as Philip Morris International Inc.’s iQos product and Juul Labs Inc.’s electronic cigarettes. BAT has been struggling, as big tobacco looks increasingly vulnerable to the decline in the conventional cigarette. London-based BAT’s stock has fallen 29 percent this year and is trading near the lowest level in three years.

Read more: Imperial Brands Sees $2 Billion Potential in Heated Tobacco

Philip Morris has said it aims to eventually stop selling traditional cigarettes altogether as it shifts to devices that heat tobacco without burning it. Imperial Brands, which had been skeptical about the new product category for years, unveiled its first heat-not-burn product, Pulze, Tuesday, which will compete with BAT’s Glo.

BAT shares were little changed in early trading in London, while Imperial Brands rose as much as 2.1 percent.

Bowles joined BAT in 2004 as head of BAT’s French business and later became chief of Malaysia. He started the chief operating officer position last year.

Durante last year sealed a $55 billion acquisition of Reynolds American, which brought brands like Camel and Natural American Spirit under the same umbrella as Dunhill and Lucky Strike. The company has also made a bet on heated tobacco and other alternative devices viewed as having lower health risks.

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