Altria Group is in advanced talks to buy UST, the maker of the popular Skoal and Copenhagen smokeless tobacco brands, for more than $10 billion, people with close knowledge of the negotiations said late Thursday. The terms could not be learned.
The acquisition, which could still fall apart, would be Altria's first major purchase since the company split in March, spinning off Philip Morris International to become an independent company focused on the overseas tobacco business and giving the Altria name to Philip Morris USA.
"We don't comment on any speculation that's out there," said David Sylvia, Altria's director of media affairs. Officials at UST, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut, did not return messages.
Speculation about the deal swirled on Thursday after UST's chief executive, Murray Kessler, abruptly pulled out of an analysts' conference, prompting a rise in the share price and heavy options trading. By the end of the day, after UST explained that there was a scheduling conflict, company shares fell back.
Stock in UST, formerly the United States Tobacco Company, closed down 4 cents, at $54 a share, while Altria fell 60 cents, to $20.66 a share.
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