Imperial Tobacco to pitch financial brief

Imperial Tobacco, the world’s fourth-largest tobacco firm, is pitching its financial and corporate PR account as it revamps its communications in the wake of recent acquisitions.

The company, whose most popular UK brand is Lambert & Butler cigarettes, has drawn up a shortlist of four firms from an original list of 16 agencies.

Imperial Tobacco group media relations manager Alex Parsons refused to comment on the pitch process, but it is understood that Citigate Dewe Rogerson, Finsbury and Financial Dynamics are battling against the incumbent Brunswick for the business.

The successful firm will report to Imperial Tobacco CEO Gareth Davies.

Parson said that, although the account would not involve IR support, the winning agency would be briefed to raise Imperial Tobacco’s profile with the international financial media. He added that the company’s contact at Brunswick was partner Jacqueline Smithson.

Parsons said the review of the six-year relationship with Brunswick was motivated by the expansion of its business.

‘When Brunswick started supporting us, we were ninth in the world; now we are number four,’ said Parsons.

Earlier this month, Imperial Tobacco acquired a further nine per cent of the shares in Reemtsma Cigarettenfabriken, as it nears the culmination of its £3.9bn acquisition of the German tobacco company.

Sources involved in the pitch process said Imperial Tobacco had stipulated connections in Germany as an advantage in the selection process. A decision is expected in the next two months.

Imperial Tobacco announced a 40 per cent rise in annual profits last November. The company said it had raised the annual estimated cost saving in 2003 from the Reemtsma takeover to £210m from £170m.

Earlier this month, MPs on the House of Commons public accounts committee accused Imperial Tobacco of selling more illegally smuggled cigarettes of two of its main brands than were bought legitimately.

Imperial Tobacco said at the time that the two main brands highlighted by customs – Superkings and Regal – were likely to be heavily smuggled because they were top-selling brands. The firm also blamed high taxes for encouraging smuggling.

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