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South Africa regulator lets local tobacco firms 'intervene' in BAT, Twisp merger

The Competition Tribunal of South Africa has allowed Gold Leaf Tobacco Corp. and the local arm of Philip Morris International Inc. to participate in the ongoing merger proceedings involving the local unit of British American Tobacco PLC and Twisp (Pty) Ltd.

The news comes over a week after Gold Leaf Tobacco and Philip Morris South Africa applied to the tribunal for permission to intervene in the proposed deal. The regulator earlier recommended against the deal over competition concerns but later changed its stand after reaching an agreement on conditions with the merging companies.

According to a May 22 release, both tobacco companies can now take part in the merger hearing and access case documents, file witness statements, give evidence at the hearing and cross-examine witnesses.

However, their participation is limited only to a number of issues, including the incentive and ability of the merged entity to engage in exclusionary conduct at the retail level, the conditions that need to be imposed by the tribunal to address conglomerate effects of the planned merger, and any increase in barriers to entry in relation to the e-cigarette market in South Africa as a result of the transaction.

There is no date yet for the merger hearing, according to the announcement.