Friday, 17 July 2015

Calling their own bluff

We still wait for the Court of Appeal to decide whether it will side with the tobacco companies who asked to be liberated from making a $1 billion down payment on the money they owe to Quebec smokers. And the clock is ticking --- there is only a week to go until July 26th, the deadline set by Justice Riordan.

Time waits for no company, it would appear. Philip Morris International was scheduled to report on its Second Quarter results -- an event that would compel it to reveal to investors what had happened in Quebec and what they intended to do about it. Their release went out, as scheduled, yesterday. 

Turns out that they don't seem to intend to force their Canadian subsidiary (Rothmans, Benson and Hedges) into bankruptcy. The parent company will instead absorb the costs of this initial payment - and has warned shareholders that it will cost them $0.09 per share. (Last week they issued quarterly dividends of about ten times that amount). The full text of their comment is posted below.

Last week the Court was told that there was "uncontradicted evidence" that the companies were unable to come up with the money, that they parent operations would not step up and cover the costs and that the three companies would be forced into insolvency.

I guess a lot can happen in a week.

BAT's half-yearly report is due out on July 29, shortly after the payment deadline. JTI is scheduled to issue its results on August 3. 


Extract from PMI News Release, July 16, 2015
Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) Reports 2015 Second-Quarter Results;


As of the date of this press release, the Québec Court of Appeal has yet to issue its decision regarding a motion, heard by the court on July 9, 2015, to cancel the order of the Superior Court of the District of Montréal, issued on May 27, 2015, that PMI’s Canadian affiliate, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. (“RBH”), pay an initial deposit of approximately CAD 246 million into a trust account pending the merits appeal of the Québec class actions judgment.

The trial court had ordered, as part of its judgment, that RBH and the other defendants make initial deposits of a portion of the damages award within 60 days.

Should the Court of Appeal deny the motion for cancellation of the order, PMI expects to incur a pre-tax charge of approximately CAD 246 million (approximately $199 million), or an after-tax charge of $0.09 per share. Depending on developments, this charge would likely be recorded as tobacco litigation-related expenses in the second quarter of 2015. Given that the Court of Appeal's decision has yet to be issued, the Schedules to this press release do not reflect any such charge. In the event of a denial of the motion for cancellation by the court, revised Schedules and any other relevant information will be furnished promptly in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, to the extent relevant.

The cases are Cécilia Létourneau v. JTI-Macdonald Corp., Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.,and Conseil Québécois sur le Tabac et la Santé and Jean-Yves Blais v. JTI-Macdonald Corp., Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. (Superior Court of the District of Montréal, Province of Québec).