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BAT’s tobacco tax payments equal SOE dividends

BAT’s tobacco tax payments worth as much as NZ government returns from all SOEs in 2011

By Paul McBeth

July 04 (BusinessDesk) -
July 4 (BusinessDesk) - British American Tobacco Holdings (New Zealand), the local unit of the maker of Benson & Hedges, Dunhill and Lucky Strike cigarettes, paid $801.2 million in excise tax last year, as much as the government reaped from all 16 state-owned enterprises, its accounts show.

Profit rose 4.1 percent to $120.7 million in calendar 2011, according to the Auckland-based company's financial statements lodged with the Companies Office. Sales slipped to $1.06 billion from $1.08 billion a year earlier, meaning three quarters of its revenue went to the government. It also paid $32.9 million in company tax.

The cost of sales increased to $864.3 million from $850.1 million. BAT spent $49.9 million buying finished goods from related parties and built its inventory to $338.2 million as at Dec. 31, from $220.1 million a year earlier.

In March, BAT cut a deal with the Inland Revenue Department over historic tax avoidance, where the tobacco company used cross-border structured finance transactions that exploited loopholes in New Zealand's international tax law.

The tobacco distributer agreed to pay $15.6 million in tax and interest of $6.3 million, having previously provided in its accounts for almost $40 million.

Excise on tobacco is set to rise an annual 10 percent for the next four years after Finance Minister Bill English targeted smokers in the budget to make a bigger contribution to returning to surplus in 2015.

Because of the addictive nature of tobacco, the hikes have been labelled an efficient way of raising revenue for the government by the Treasury, and the latest round of increases will swell the Crown coffers by $1.4 billion over the four-year period.

BAT was already contending with three years of 10 percent annual hikes as part of the government’s drive for a smokefree nation by 2025.

The company returned a dividend of $162.9 million to its parent, the biggest return to the shareholder since Rothmans International was folded into the global group in 1999. It didn't pay a dividend in 2010.


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