Philip Morris considers diversifying - FT
LONDON, March 6 (Reuters) - Philip Morris Cos. Inc. is considering a plan to diversify away from the beleaguered tobacco sector into luxury hotels, media or mobile phones to make wider use of its Marlboro brand, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
It said the world's largest tobacco company feared the Marlboro name -- independently valued at $21 billion, making it 10th most valuable brand around the globe -- faced the prospect of slow decay as advertising bans came into force and smoking declined.
Cigarette sales were flat in Europe, declining in the United States and slightly rising in emerging market countries, the newspaper said.
The Financial Times said the most favoured new venture was thought to be a plan to buy a chain of top-class international hotels that would carry the Marlboro name.
Any short-list would probably include Le Meridien -- run by media and leisure company Granada Group Plc -- which had more than 100 four-star hotels internationally, it said.
Other possible ventures included a Marlboro cable or satellite television channel, a magazine and a mobile phone company.
The diversification would have to take place outside the United States, where tobacco companies had agreed not to put cigarette brands on clothing or other products, the Financial Times said.
It said plans to extend the Marlboro name were understood to be under discussion between Philip Morris' European headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland and London-based branding consultancy C Eye.
Philip Morris, along with other tobacco firms, is involved in a U.S. lawsuit seeking to recover billions of dollars spent by the federal government on smoking-related illnesses.