BAT lowers Souza Cruz buyout offer to account for dividend
SAO PAULO, March 20 (Reuters) - British America Tobacco Plc on Friday slightly reduced an offer for the 24.7 percent stake it does not already own in Souza Cruz SA to account for a dividend payout that Brazil's largest cigarette maker approved this week.
In a securities filing, Souza Cruz said BAT is now offering to pay 26.14 reais in cash for each share of Souza Cruz, after subtracting a 0.61 real payout approved by Souza Cruz shareholders on Thursday. The British company originally offered 26.75 reais.
Currently the process is suspended, pending a request by minority shareholders for a new independent appraisal of Souza Cruz in an extraordinary meeting. Earlier this month, an appraisal by investment-banking firm NM Rothschild & Sons put the fair economic value for Souza Cruz shares between 22.09 reais and 24.54 reais.
BAT'S decision to buy out Souza Cruz minority shareholders comes as a number of foreign companies delist their Brazilian subsidiaries, a sign of confidence that they can better navigate Brazil's rough economic waters without pressure from minority investors.
The $3.5 billion buyout would give BAT, the producer of Dunghill cigarettes, full control over Souza Cruz, which has about 80 percent of Brazil's market. BAT last considered a Souza Cruz buyout almost five years ago, but the plan foundered due to a strong Brazilian currency.
(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
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