U.S. Federal Trade Commission says Altria’s investment in Juul is anti-competitive


The antitrust agency alleges tobacco giant Altria exited the e-cigarette market and agreed “not to compete in return for a substantial ownership interest in Juul”—35 per cent of the company, for which Altria paid US$12.8 billion in December 2018. The administrative trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 5, 2021. Juul declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal. Altria general counsel said its investment “does not harm competition.” (The Logic, The Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: The FTC hasn’t said if it wants to unwind the deal, but Altria’s stake in Juul is worth much less now than when it was acquired. In January, Altria wrote down its investment for a second time, cutting US$8.6 billion in total. Both sides have faced challenges. In November 2019, Juul announced it would lay off 650 staff and reduce expenses by US$1 billion. The two firms are also linked through their executive ranks: K.C. Crosthwaite, who became Juul’s CEO in September 2019, is Altria’s former chief growth officer, while the startup’s regulatory head, Joe Murillo, joined from the tobacco firm the following month.