October 15, 2015 / 11:27 PM / 4 years ago

Brazil's Souza Cruz delisting nears as BAT buyout succeeds

SAO PAULO, Oct 15 (Reuters) - British America Tobacco Plc on Thursday carried out a buyout of almost all the shares it did not yet own in Souza Cruz SA, Brazil’s largest cigarette maker, reaffirming a plan to take the company private.

London-based BAT paid about 9.33 billion reais ($2.45 billion) for about 343 million shares in Souza Cruz at a price of 27.20 reais each, according to a securities filing. The amount purchased equals to 92 percent of the Souza Cruz stock that was in the hands of minority shareholders.

The buyout gives BAT full control over Souza Cruz, which has about 80 percent of Brazil’s cigarette market. BAT last considered a Souza Cruz buyout almost five years ago, but the plan foundered due to a sustained rise in the real, Brazil’s currency.

The plan comes amid a move by a number of foreign companies to delist their Brazilian subsidiaries, a possible indication that they believe they can better navigate Brazil’s recession without pressure from minority investors.

The Souza Cruz buyout was facilitated by this year’s 31 percent decline in the real, sources with direct involvement in the transaction told Reuters in recent months. The real is the world’s worst-performing major currency this year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The company, which was founded in 1903 by Portuguese immigrant Albino Souza Cruz, has six of Brazil’s top 10 brands, including Derby, Hollywood, Free and Dunhill. The founder transferred control of the Rio de Janeiro-based firm to BAT in 1914.

$1 = 3.7964 Brazilian reais Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Alberto Alerigi Jr; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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