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    Imperial Tobacco Makes Offer to Altadis

    Dramatic tobacco industry consolidation predicted.

    MADRID -- The Wall Street Journal reported that Spanish-French tobacco company Altadis SA received an unsolicited approach from U.K.-based Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, in the latest signal that the global tobacco industry is poised for dramatic consolidation.

    The preliminary offer of €45 ($59.53) per Altadis share, valuing the manufacturer of Gitanes and Ducados brands at €11.52 billion, represents a 15.7 percent premium from Wednesday's closing price of €38.89, according to the Journal.

    Altadis shares have posted strong gains in recent sessions on speculation that it could become a takeover target as the global tobacco industry braces for wider and stricter antismoking restrictions across the globe. Bid speculation has surrounded most tobacco stocks since Japan Tobacco Inc. launched its £7.5 billion ($14.52 billion) bid for rival Gallaher Group PLC in December.

    Altadis, which currently has a market value of around €9.96 billion, said in a statement that its board will meet to discuss the offer. Imperial makes Lambert & Butler and JPS cigarettes as well as Rizla rolling papers.

    Last month, Imperial agreed to buy Commonwealth Brands, the U.S.'s fourth-largest tobacco company, for $1.9 billion in cash.

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