Economy

Juul in deal talks with three tobacco giants – WSJ

FILE PHOTO: An electronic cigarette device made by JUUL is shown in this picture illustration taken September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Illustration/File Photo   PM +2.09% Add to/Remove from Watchlist Add to Watchlist Add Position

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(Reuters) -E-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc is in early talks with three tobacco giants for a potential sale, strategic investment, licensing or distribution deal, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Juul, which was reportedly looking to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has had separate discussions with Philip Morris International Inc (NYSE:PM), Japan Tobacco (OTC:JAPAF) Group and Altria Group (NYSE:MO) Inc, the report said.

A deal is not imminent and the discussions may not result in a sale or partnership, the people told the Journal.

The company, partly owned by Marlboro maker Altria, declined to comment.

Juul reached late-stage talks with Altria last fall on a potential deal to sell its international business or license its U.S. intellectual property but the talks fell apart in September due to a potential bankruptcy filing, people familiar with the discussions told the Journal.

The company has resumed discussions with Altria, the people added.

In September, Altria exercised the option to be released from its non-compete deal with Juul almost four years after buying a 35% stake in the company.

The once red-hot vaping company is currently facing thousands of lawsuits filed across the United States over claims that it deceptively marketed e-cigarettes and contributed to rising tobacco use amongst youth.

Last week, Juul secured preliminary court approval of a $255 million settlement resolving the claims by consumers.

Juul said in July it was in the early stages of exploring options including financing alternatives amid the lawsuits.

But later in November, the company secured an investment from some of its early investors to stay in business.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June briefly banned Juul’s e-cigarettes, though it later put the order on hold following an appeal.

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