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China’s Tobacco Monopoly Bigger by Profit Than HSBC

Production at a cigarette factory in Changchun in northeast China's Jilin province. Despite the announcement of banning smoking in public spaces, China's cigarette sales still enjoyed growth of 16.7% in the first half of 2010. Photographer: Chao YL/epa/Corbis
Production at a cigarette factory in Changchun in northeast China's Jilin province. Despite the announcement of banning smoking in public spaces, China's cigarette sales still enjoyed growth of 16.7% in the first half of 2010. Photographer: Chao YL/epa/Corbis

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- China National Tobacco Corp., the nation’s cigarette monopoly, may be larger by annual profit than HSBC Holdings Plc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., according to a rare release of the company’s financial data.

The state-owned tobacco company had net income of 117.7 billion yuan ($18.7 billion) in 2010 on sales of 770.4 billion yuan. Industrial Bank Co. released the figures in a statement late yesterday because China National Tobacco is buying a 5.2 billion yuan stake in the Shanghai-listed lender.

Authorities in China, home to a third of all the world’s smokers, have been criticized by groups including the World Health Organization for not doing enough to prevent tobacco use. Critics say the tax revenue the government derives from the industry -- more than $95 billion last year -- has hindered efforts to discourage smoking.

“It would be better if they could also disclose more information about the health impact of their products, which we lack in China,” Wan Xia, a Beijing-based researcher at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences who is studying the effects of smoking in the country, said in a telephone interview. She said the figures released by Industrial Bank are the first she’s seen for China National Tobacco’s profit.

About 1 million Chinese die from tobacco-related illnesses every year, according to the WHO.

HSBC reported $16.8 billion of profit for its most recent fiscal year and Wal-Mart posted $15.7 billion. Figures for 2011 weren’t given for China National Tobacco.

18th Biggest

Its 2010 figures would make China National Tobacco the world’s 18th largest company by profit, one spot ahead of American International Group and just behind JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It would be the world’s 30th largest company by sales, just behind Allianz SE.

China National Tobacco made more in profit in 2010 than the combined total for Philip Morris International Inc., British American Tobacco Plc, and Altria Group, Inc., the world’s three-biggest listed tobacco companies, according to the figures.

China, the world’s most-populous nation is home to more than 350 million smokers. Almost three in every five men smoke. The volume of cigarettes sold in China is expected to rise at an average 14 percent annually during the five years through 2015 to hit 1.8 trillion yuan in retail sales, researcher Euromonitor International said in a July report.

China has previously only disclosed annual sales and tax revenue figures for the tobacco industry and not specifically for China National Tobacco. The State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, which also runs China National Tobacco, said in January that the nation’s tobacco industry’s net income before taxes rose 22.5 percent to 753 billion yuan, according to a report by the official Xinhua News Agency.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Daryl Loo in Beijing at dloo7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Gale at j.gale@bloomberg.net

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