10.4 The major tobacco companies operating in Australia

Last updated: November 2016 

Suggested citation: Scollo, M, Bayly, M. 10.4 The tobacco companies operating in Australia. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2016. Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-10-tobacco-industry/10-4-the-tobacco-companies-operating-in-australia

The tobacco market in Australia is dominated by three major companies, of which the largest is British American Tobacco Australia (BATA). In 2014, Philip Morris Australia ceased manufacturing tobacco products in Australia, and BATA closed its manufacturing operations in 2015, meaning that no tobacco products were manufactured in Australia after 2015. The Australian tobacco market after 2015 is therefore largely a wholesale market, whereas previously local manufacturers would bypass the wholesale market and sell to large retailers directly.1 The transition of BATA and Philip Morris’s previous manufacturing business to the tobacco wholesaling market cause massive spikes in revenue for the tobacco wholesaling industry. Industry revenue increased by 45% when Philip Morris ceased manufacture in 2014, and increased by 140% in 2015 when BATA closed its manufacturing plant in the first half of that year.1   

In 2014–2015, the total revenue of the tobacco product wholesaling market—including factory-made cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, and other tobacco products—was $2.5 billion. Table 10.4.1 describes the three major tobacco companies operating in Australia in 2015, which collectively accounted for 84.7% of the industry.1    

Table 10.4.1
Tobacco companies operating in Australia: summary, 2015 

Source: IBISWorld Pty Ltd company reports: BATA—December 2015,2 PMA—December 2015,3 ITA—September 2015.4 Euromonitor International. Tobacco in Australia. London: Euromonitor International, 2016. Data up to 2015 available for purchase or on subscription: http://www.euromonitor.com/tobacco

10.4.1 British American Tobacco Australia Limited

British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) is a wholly owned subsidiary of British American Tobacco.5 British American Tobacco is a publicly listed company on the London Stock Exchange.

BATA was created in 1999 by the merger of WD & HO Wills (Australia) Holdings Ltd (controlled by British American Tobacco) and Rothmans Holdings Ltd.6 WD & HO Wills (Australia) had manufactured tobacco products in Sydney since 1913.2 The merger of the two Australian companies mirrored the international merger of British American Tobacco with Rothmans International, making the newly formed BATA the largest tobacco company operating in Australia. The then Chairman of Wills (and former Premier of New South Wales), Mr Nick Greiner, subsequently became Chairman of BATA.6 The new corporate entity soon realised higher profits due to sales growth, cost reductions and distribution advantages arising from rationalisation of resources.7 The head office and main manufacturing base for BATA are located in Woolloomooloo, Sydney.5    

BATA divides its global business into four geographic areas, with Australia grouped in the Asia-Pacific region.8 Within that region, The British American Tobacco Australasia area covers Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Taking into account the wider Australasian region, in 2016 BATA reportedly employed a total workforce of about 1100, of which about 550 were employed within Australia.5 BATA has manufacturing facilities in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Western Samoa. BATA also produces tobacco goods for export throughout other Pacific Island nations, through its own export division, and has 380 contracted farmers in Fiji.5

Since BATA is wholly owned by its UK parent British American Tobacco, financial data specific to BATA do not need to be made publicly available. In British American Tobacco's annual company reports, Australia is included in the Asian-Pacific region, for which results from New Zealand and the South Pacific, and Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Japan, Bangladesh, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam are pooled.8  

Limited financial information for BATA is compiled and published annually as part of Business Review Weekly and IBISWorld's annual ranking of Australia’s largest companies.' Annual financial information (at December 31) from 2011 to 2015 for British American Tobacco (Australasia Holdings) is presented in Table 10.4.2. Because these data collapse the Asian-Pacific region, as do British American Tobacco's annual reports, it is not possible to isolate Australian performance. For the year 2015, BATA was ranked 170 out of Australia's top companies on the basis of total revenue.

Table 10.4.2
British American Tobacco (Australasia Holdings)*, year ending 31 December 2011–2015

* Table includes data from all operations throughout the Asian-Pacific region

† Figures unadjusted for inflation

Sources: IBISWorld Pty Ltd

BATA is the market leader in tobacco product wholesaling in Australia, with around 48% of market share. BATA's major cigarette brands in Australia have traditionally been Dunhill, Winfield and Benson & Hedges, with the revitalised Rothmans brand showing a large increase in market share in recent years.9 In 2015, by volume, BATA had the largest share of the cigarette market at 38%, second largest share of the roll-your-own tobacco market at 28%, and third largest volume share of the cigar market at 23%.10 During the mid-2000s, British American Tobacco's annual reports consistently alluded to increasing profits in Australia, attributing this success to higher margins, reductions in overheads and improved supply chain efficiencies, and strong performances by its key brands, Winfield, Dunhill, Benson & Hedges and Holiday.11-14 However, the 2015 British American Tobacco annual report gave this description of the Australian market: ‘Volume fell due to market contraction. Excise led price increases, a challenging environment and continued high prevalence of illicit trade led to down-trading and a significant reduction in profit. Market share was flat.’8 BATA’s Australian business in 2014–15 also involved ‘factory closures and downsizing activities’.8  Table 10.4.3 presents BATA's Australian brand portfolio for all types of tobacco products as of 2013. 

Table 10.4.3
British American Tobacco Australia brands and products, 2013

Source: The Australian Retail Tobacconist15

10.4.2 Philip Morris (Australia) Limited

Philip Morris (Australia) Limited is the Australian subsidiary of Philip Morris International, based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Philip Morris Australia was established in 1954, the first overseas affiliate to be set up by Philip Morris International to produce Philip Morris brands outside the US.16 Philip Morris Australia's head office relocated to South Wharf, Melbourne in 2016 after the 2014 closure of Philip Morris Australia’s manufacturing plant in Moorabbin, Victoria. Philip Morris Australia employed 582 people in all subsidiaries across Australia in 2015.3 Philip Morris International groups Australia as part of its Asian Region—one of four global divisions. This region also covers New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and all Asian countries other than those in the Middle East, and is headquartered in Hong Kong.

Since its delisting as a public company in 1992, Philip Morris Australia has had no formal requirements to publicly lodge annual reports or financial statements specifying results from its Australian operations. No Australia-specific information is reported in Philip Morris International's annual reports, although the following statement regarding the cigarette shipment volumes in the Asian Region was made in the 2015 annual report: ‘Our cigarette shipment volume of 288.1 billion units decreased by 4.4%, due primarily to: the unfavorable impact of an adjustment in distributor inventories in Japan; lower total market and share in Australia, mainly reflecting the impact of excise tax-driven price increases and competitive pricing in the deep discount segment, Japan and Pakistan, and lower share in Indonesia.’17

Limited information is also available through the annual listings compiled by the Australian Business Review Weekly and IBISWorld. Annual financial data for 2011–2015 are presented in Table 10.4.4. In 2015, Philip Morris Australia was ranked 459 out of Australia's top enterprises on the basis of total revenue.3   

Table 10.4.4
Philip Morris Australia, year ending 31 December 2011–2015

* Figures unadjusted for inflation
Sources: IBISWorld Pty Ltd3

Table 10.4.5
Philip Morris Australia brands and products, 2013

Source: The Australian Retail Tobacconist15

10.4.3 Imperial Tobacco Australia Limited

Imperial Tobacco Australia Limited is the smallest and most recently formed of the major tobacco companies operating within Australia. Imperial Tobacco Australia was established to coincide with the merger of WD & HO Wills Holdings Limited and Rothmans Holdings Limited as British American Tobacco Australia. At the time of the proposed merger, concerns were raised about the likelihood for reduction in competition in the Australian marketplace, thereby potentially causing a breach of Section 50 of the Trade Practices Act (Cth)1974. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission agreed to permit the merger to proceed, on condition that another tobacco company enter the Australian market. The UK-based Imperial Tobacco Group was invited to enter the Australian market and in September 1999, Imperial Tobacco Australia commenced operations.18, 19 As part of the agreement allowing the formation of British American Tobacco Australia, Imperial Tobacco Australia was sold a portfolio of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and cigarette paper trademarks previously owned by Rothmans or WD & HO Wills for the sum of $325 million. The purchase gave Imperial Tobacco Australia an opening market share of 17.1%.18

The Imperial Tobacco Group does not make available specific information about its Australian business in annual reports. Imperial Tobacco Group segments its international business by strategy not geography, and Australia is categorised in the ‘Returns Market–North’ division, along with the Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, and United Kingdom. The focus of Returns Markets is ‘sustainable profit performance while actively managing…strong share positions’.20   

The head office for Imperial Tobacco Australia is located in the suburb of Baulkham Hills, north-west of Sydney. Regional offices operate in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. In 2007, Imperial Tobacco Australia employed 217 personnel (more recent information is not publically available). Imperial Tobacco Australia has never owned a manufacturing plant in Australia: prior to its manufacturing facility closure in 2015, BATA produced a range of brands for Imperial Tobacco under license. For the year 2015, Imperial Tobacco Australia was rated 541 out of Australia's top enterprises on the basis of total revenue.4 See Table 10.4.6 for financial information for 2011–2015. 

Table 10.4.6
Imperial Tobacco Australia, year ending 30 September 2011–2015

* Figures unadjusted for inflation

Sources: IBISWorld Pty Ltd4

Prior to the closure of Philip Morris Australia’s and BATA’s manufacturing facilities in 2014 and 2015, respectively, Imperial Tobacco had more than 40% of the tobacco product wholesaling market share, but this declined to less than 13% in 2015—behind BATA and Philip Morris Australia.1 Imperial’s key Australian cigarette brands include Peter Stuyvesant, Horizon, and JPS, which became Australia’s leading brand in 2015.20 Imperial Tobacco Australia dominates the roll-your-own tobacco category, where it had a 62% volume share in 2015, and was ranked third by volume in cigarette market share (27%).10 Imperial Tobacco Australia’s product range as of 2013 is described in Table 10.4.7.

Table 10.4.7
Imperial Tobacco Australia brands and products, 2013

Source: The Australian Retail Tobacconist15

Recent news and research

For recent news items and research on this topic, click here (Last updated February 2017)   


1. Little S. IBIS World Industry Report F3606b: Tobacco Product Wholesaling in Australia. Melbourne, Australia: IBIS World Pty Ltd, 2016.

2. IBISWorld Pty Ltd. IBISWorld Company Report: British American Tobacco (Australasia Holdings) Pty Ltd. Melbourne: Australia: IBISWorld Pty Ltd, 2015.

3. IBISWorld Pty Ltd. IBISWorld Company Report: Philip Morris (Australia) Limited. Melbourne: Australia: IBISWorld Pty Ltd, 2015.

4. IBISWorld Pty Ltd. IBISWorld Company Report: Imperial Tobacco Australia Limited. Melbourne: Australia: IBISWorld Pty Ltd, 2015.

5. British American Tobacco Australia. About us. Woolloomooloo, New South Wales: British American Tobacco Australia, 2016. Viewed: 29 November 2016. Available from: http://www.bata.com.au/group/sites/BAT_9RNFLH.nsf/vwPagesWebLive/DO9F8LV9?opendocument.  

6. British American Tobacco. Australian announcement.  Merger of Rothmans Holdings Limited and WD & HO Wills Holdings Limited, 19 May 1999. London: British American Tobacco, 1999. Available from: http://www.bat.com/group/sites/uk__3mnfen.nsf/vwPagesWebLive/DO52AFRT/$FILE/medMD52XFE8.pdf?openelement.

7. Neil M. Tobacco group lifts profit. The Canberra Times, 2001; 1 Mar:15. 

8. British American Tobacco. Annual report 2015. Delivering today, investing in tomorrow. London: British American Tobacco, 2016. Last update: Viewed.

9. Retail World. Annual Report 2015. Retail World, 2015.

10. Euromonitor International. Tobacco in Australia. London: Euromonitor International, 2016. Available from: http://www.euromonitor.com/tobacco.

11. British American Tobacco. Annual Review and Financial Summary Statement 2003. London: British American Tobacco, 2004. Available from: http://miranda.hemscott.com/ir/bats/ar_2003/main.htm.

12. British American Tobacco. Annual Review and Summary Financial Statement 2004. London: British American Tobacco, 2005. Available from: http://miranda.hemscott.com/ir/bats/re_2004/main.htm.

13. British American Tobacco. Annual Review and Summary Financial Statement 2005. London: British American Tobacco, 2006.Available from: http://miranda.hemscott.com/ir/bats/ar_2005/download/pdf/management_review_regional_summary.pdf.

14. British American Tobacco. Annual Report and Accounts 06.  Annual Review and Summary Financial Statement and Directors’ Report and Accounts 2006. London: British American Tobacco plc, 2007. Available from: http://www.bat.com/group/sites/uk__3mnfen.nsf/vwPagesWebLive/DO52AK34/$FILE/medMD6ZPCA4.pdf?openelement.

15. NSW Retail Tobacco Traders' Association. Price lists-cigarettes. The Australian Retail Tobacconist, 2013; 87(no. 1 Feb-May):1-2. 

16. Philip Morris International. Country overview: Australia. 2016. Viewed: 29 November 2016. Available from: http://www.pmi.com/marketpages/pages/market_en_au.aspx.

17. Philip Morris International. 2015 Annual Report. New York: Philip Morris International, 2016.

18. Imperial Tobacco Australia. Joint Select Committee on Tobacco Smoking in New South Wales. Inquiry into tobacco smoking in New South Wales. Baulkhan Hills, New South Wales: Imperial Tobacco Australia, 2006. Available from: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/committee.nsf/0/468F5DB9395A7382CA257162000F4502 .

19. Imperial Tobacco Group. Australian acquisition, 1999, Imperial Tobacco Group: Bristol, UK. Available from: http://www.imperial-tobacco.com/index.asp?page=78&newsid=47&type=18&year=archive .

20. Imperial Brands PLC. Annual report and accounts 2015. Bristol, United Kingdom: Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, 2016.

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