April 8, 2019 / 10:06 PM / 10 days ago

U.S. regulator asks Altria for more information on Juul investment

A woman smokes a Juul e-cigarette in New York, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - Marlboro maker Altria Group said on Monday it had received a request for additional information on its investment in e-cigarette market leader Juul Labs Inc from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Altria, which bought a 35 percent stake in Juul for $12.8 billion in December, is now looking to convert its non-voting stake in the company to voting shares as per the terms of the investment agreement.

The company said the waiting period for the conversion deal had been extended until 30 days after the parties had complied with the FTC’s request for documents. The agency is investigating the proposed conversion deal to ensure that it does not violate antitrust law.

The proposal would give Altria the right to nominate directors representing a third of Juul’s board. The company will otherwise remain independent.

E-cigarettes are under pressure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which released plans in March to slow a surge in teenage use of the popular nicotine devices.

The connection to Altria is expected to get Juul improved distribution in convenience stores, as well as such promotion as advertisements in traditional packs of cigarettes.

Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by James Emmanuel and Rosalba O'Brien

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