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Juul in deal talks with three tobacco giants

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 1/25/2023
© Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Juul Labs Inc. is looking for a new partner. 

The e-cigarette maker, which came close to filing for bankruptcy protection last fall, is now in early-stage talks with three tobacco giants, according to people familiar with the matter. Juul is seeking a potential sale, strategic investment, licensing or distribution deal, the people said.

Juul executives in recent weeks have had separate discussions with Philip Morris International Inc.  Japan Tobacco Group and Altria Group Inc. the people said. A deal isn’t imminent, the people said, and the discussions may not result in a sale or partnership. Altria, which owns a 35% stake in Juul, valued the vaping company at $1 billion in October.

Juul, which represents 27% of e-cigarettes sold in U.S. stores tracked by Nielsen, reached the brink of bankruptcy last year amid a dispute with federal regulators over whether its products could remain on the U.S. market. The still-unresolved dispute made it difficult for Juul to raise money to cover its legal liabilities. 

Juul in December agreed to pay $1.7 billion in a broad legal settlement covering more than 5,000 lawsuits. Many of the lawsuits accused the e-cigarette maker of marketing its products to children and teens. Juul has said it never targeted young people and has been working to regain the trust of regulators and the public.

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