Our history

We were founded in 1902… and a lot has happened at BAT since then. Take a quick look at some of the landmark moments in our company’s history.

Our history

  • 1902


    When the UK’s Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company of the United States form a joint venture, the British American Tobacco Company. James ‘Buck’ Duke becomes the company’s first chairman. His strategy is to devise a superior product, hire the best people to make it, price it as low as possible, and mechanise production.

  • 1904-1911


    A period of rapid expansion sees us develop markets in the West Indies, India, Ceylon, Egypt, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Indonesia, East Africa and Malaya.

  • 1905


    The acquisition of a majority share in Cairo-based cigarette manufacturer, Maspero Freres Company, allows us to expand our export trade of cigarettes made from Turkish tobacco into India and Europe.

  • 1910


    Our cigarettes sales now exceed 10 billion per year.

  • 1911


    The American Tobacco Company divests its shares in the joint venture and we are listed on the London Stock Exchange for the first time.

  • 1915


    Sales total 25 billion cigarettes per year, as the additional demand from the armed forces for tobacco stretches our manufacturing capacity to the limit.

  • 1921


    Cigarrera Bigott Sucs is formed in Venezuela and, in the following few years, acquisitions are made in Chile, Mexico and Central America.

  • 1927


    Our 25th anniversary. We have become one of the UK’s leading companies, with 120 subsidiaries.

  • 1932


    We have factories in most countries and develop independent distribution networks, which become fully-fledged subsidiaries. Leaf-growing and manufacturing operations are established in India, China, Brazil and Nigeria and Haus Bergmann is acquired in Germany.

  • 1939


    The outbreak of the Second World War severely disrupts our global operations.

  • 1942


    Profits that were static at £5.5 million right through the depression go down to £3 million until the war ends.

  • 1953-1955


    A return to growth sees us rank third among British, French and German companies, measured by company profits.

  • 1960


    Global sales exceed 280 billion cigarettes with trading profits of more than £58 million.

  • 1961-1965


    We begin to diversify with moves into the paper, cosmetics and food industries.

  • 1966


    We acquire cigar manufacturer Henri Wintermans and company profits exceed £100 million for the first time.

  • 1970-1973


    We move into retailing with acquisitions, including Argos in the UK and Saks Fifth Avenue in the USA.

  • 1976


    BAT Industries is formed. Within two years it is the UK’s third biggest company. Annual sales increase to 500 billion cigarettes.

  • 1981


    Trading profits from the tobacco operations triple over the previous decade to more than £463 million.

  • 1984-1989


    BAT Industries acquires Eagle Star, Allied Dunbar and Farmers Group to become the largest UK-based insurance group.

  • 1992


    Hungary’s Pecsi Dohanygyar is acquired. Acquisitions and joint ventures follow rapidly in Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the Czech Republic, Russia, Romania and Poland.

  • 1994


    The prestigious Lucky Strike and Pall Mall brands are now added to our portfolio, with the acquisition of the American Tobacco Company.

  • 1998


    BAT Industries divests its financial services businesses. British American Tobacco becomes a separately quoted company on the London Stock Exchange.

  • 1999


    Following a global merger with Rothmans International we gain several major brands, including Dunhill.

  • 2001


    New investments in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Vietnam and South Korea.

  • 2004


    Brown & Williamson and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company combine and Reynolds American is formed – a stronger, more sustainable business in which we have a 42% share.

  • 2008


    We acquire the assets of Tekel, the Turkish state tobacco company.

  • 2011


    Major acquisition of Protabaco in Colombia for US$452 million. The Group establishes Nicoventures Limited, a company to focus exclusively on the development and commercialisation of innovative, regulatory approved nicotine products.

  • 2012


    UK-based company CN Creative, who specialise in the development of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) technologies, are acquired.

  • 2013


    CTBAT International Limited, a joint investment of subsidiaries of China National Tobacco Corporation and British American Tobacco commences trading. The Group launches its first e-cigarette product, Vype, in the UK.