Marlboro maker Altria to acquire UST for $10.4 billion

Mumbai: Altria Group Inc, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, has agreed to acquire smokeless tobacco and wine maker UST Inc for $10.4 billion, or $69.50 a share, in cash, the companies said on Monday.

Altria will also assume about $1.3 billion in debt to combine the Marlboro cigarette brand with the Skoal and Copenhagen smokeless tobacco products.

The price represents a 29 per cent premium to UST's closing price on Thursday, the day before news of a possible deal broke.

UST, which commands a 58 per cent share of the US smokeless tobacco market, also owns the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

It's main business, however, has been pressured by soaring gasoline prices and the weak US economy.

The acquisition would be Altria's first since it spun off Philip Morris International in March to free its overseas unit from the overhang of slumping US cigarette sales and litigation worries.