Examination of Witnesses(Questions 400-419)|
WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE 2002
400. Can I take it that in your original answer
about the price differential you think it would be worth trying
£1.02 off to bring us in line with the Republic to see what
(Mr Dibble) That would certainly bring us in line
with the Republic who have much less of a smuggling problem than
401. Would you be tempted to help with that
by reducing your tax exclusive price?
(Mr Davis) At the end of the day, given the differential
wholesale retail margins, the margin to us is not appreciably
different in most Western countries.
402. One other question. You recently agreed
to buy Reemtsma, the German cigarette manufacturer, who manufacture
the West brand. In 2000 the World Customs Organisation reported
that the West brand was Europe's most frequently smuggled cigarettes.
What are you doing to turn that situation around?
(Mr Davis) I think Bruce, who was involved in the
due diligence team who looked at Reemtsma, is best qualified to
(Mr Davidson) One of the things we were very impressed
with with the Reemtsma company was they had large security measures
already in place so that quote I think perhaps refers to a historic
problem that the brand had. Germany is Western Europe's biggest
cigarette market, West has some 10% market share, it is a substantial
brand, so again slightly the same dynamic as in the UK, the popular
brands could be targeted, and I think West's particular problem
historically was from Eastern Europe. We were more than convinced
that is a problem in the past and they have managed to do something
Mr Jones: Thank you.
Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr Jones.
Mr Gerry Steinberg.
403. Thank you, Chairman. I have got to be quite
honest, I am a little confused because you appear to be very co-operative
this afternoon, Mr Davis, doing everything you can to minimise
smuggling and help Her Majesty's Government, which is so laudable
and we are delighted to hear what you have to say. Did you watch
the BBC2's The Money Programme? You have someone called
Mr Sadler who works for you, do you not?
(Mr Davis) Yes.
404. Did you watch that programme?
(Mr Davis) I did not watch it live but I have seen
405. If Mr Sadler was sitting there would he
be saying the same thing as you, do you think?
(Mr Davis) I am convinced he would.
406. That is interesting. I watched it at the
weekend and I took notes of what he was saying on that programme.
He basically said "We know quite well what is happening but
we still supply known smugglers on the basis that if we don't,
others will". He basically said that. He also went on to
say "We want our brands being sold, therefore the smuggled
market gives us a legitimate sort of appearance so we can sell
our brands and we want a slice of the action regardless".
Those are not his exact words but that is basically what he said
on the programme.
(Mr Davis) I think they were far from his exact words.
407. That is exactly what he said.
(Mr Davis) I take the point you are making. I shall
not be pedantic on the wording. I think what he was trying to
get across was in countries where there are legitimate channels
and where British consumers are going, countries like Spain where
there are a considerable number of holiday makers, a considerable
number of British full-time residents or part-time residents,
if there is a demand for our products there we want them there,
we want them to be well merchandised, we have invested in sales
infrastructure to make sure the brands are there and, if possible,
we want them better merchandised than our competitors so we get
a share of that business.
408. Mr Sadler was not saying that. Mr Sadler
was basically saying "We know there are smuggled markets,
therefore we have basically got to be part of that. We want our
brands to be sold and one way of getting them sold and recognised
is by them being there". Take the North-East, for example,
that is where you sell most of your Regal cigarettes and that
is where most of them are smuggled. He was basically saying "It
is there so we have got to participate in it". You appear
to be saying something totally different. Is Mr Sadler still working
(Mr Davis) Yes, he is. If that is your interpretation,
Mr Steinberg, I can only say
409. I recommend that everybody who is in this
room this afternoon should have a look at that programme because
that is clearly what he did say in The Money Programme.
(Mr Davis) This was some time ago.
410. It does not really matter when it was,
does it? If that was the attitude of Mr Sadler
(Mr Davis) I presume we are talking about the same
one and we are talking about the same thing.
411. I hope so. Are you saying that your company
policy has changed?
(Mr Davis) No, I do not think our company policy has
changed. I think what has happened over time is we have seen with
tracking data, with stock coming back into the UK, this is something
that has evolved over what is quite a small period of time really,
since 1999. As a result we have discontinued supplying to these
412. If there was no smuggled market, how would
that affect your profits? Tell us what your profits are from UK
sales and what your profits are from exports?
(Mr Davis) If there was no smuggled market our profits
would increase, absolutely.
413. I am just a layman and I did not do very
well at sums at school but I find that quite a staggering statement.
What you are saying is if there is no smuggled market then your
profits would go up.
(Mr Davis) On the basis that we believe the UK duty
paid sales price would compensate for it we would make more money.
414. What are your profits in the UK?
(Mr Davis) On our last full year I think it was about
415. Perhaps you can send us a note on it.
(Mr Davis) I have got it here actually. In total it
was £604 million in our last full year, of which £325
million was UK and £279 million overseas. That is export
and the earnings of our overseas subsidiaries.
416. From what you are saying this afternoon
you appear to be saying you will co-operate as much as you can.
This afternoon will you give us a clear, unequivocal commitment
from your company to work to minimise the presence of brands in
the smuggled market?
(Mr Davis) Indeed.
417. You will?
(Mr Davis) Yes.
418. Fine. We will hold you to that, of course.
If you turn to your own document, the Imperial Tobacco Limited
Briefing Paper, which you sent to us, on page six you say "Imperial
Tobacco has never deliberately supplied overseas markets with
the intention that smugglers will obtain its cigarettes and divert
them to the UK illegally." That takes a lot of believing
when you look, for example, at the countries you are exporting
to, does it not?
(Mr Davis) No, I do not think it does.
419. Explain why it does not.
(Mr Davis) The tobacco industry and the count of cigarettes
is characterised by big numbers, it is millions and it is billions
of sticks, as it were. The volumes we are talking about, while
they obviously seem very big numbers, only represent single digit
shares of the markets that were in question. When trying to go
into those markets it is not an unreasonable assumption to try
to plan to take a small single digit share of a market where there
is an appetite for international brands.