Imperial Tobacco PLC is the largest cigarette manufacturer in the UK (but the second largest UK based tobacco company by global sales after British American Tobacco), second largest in Germany and fourth worldwide, following its purchase of Reemtsma Zigarettenfabriken, adding brands such as Davidoff, Peter Stuyvesant and West to its line-up. The company's headquarters are in Bristol, England.
For the year ended 30 September 2004 Imperial Tobacco had turnover of £11.005 billion, or £3.032 billion excluding tobacco duty. It made profits before tax of £688 million and net profit of £445 million.
Imperial Tobacco was created in 1901 from a merger of a number of British tobacco and cigarette companies who were being threatened by competition from the United States. The original merger was between W.D. & H.O. Wills of Bristol and Stephen Mitchel & Son of Glasgow. The company's first chairman was William Henry Wills of the Wills company. Later mergers swallowed Lambert & Butler, Wm Clarke & Son, John Player & Sons, Franklyn Davey company, Edwards Ringer, J & F Bell and F & J Smith.
In 1902 the then Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company agreed to form a joint venture, the British-American Tobacco Company Ltd. The parent companies agreed not to trade in each other's domestic territory and to assign trademarks, export businesses and overseas subsidiaries to the joint venture. Amercian Tobacco sold its share in 1911 but Imperial maintained an interest until 1980.
In 1973, having become increasingly diversified (restaurant chains, food services and brands, distribution etc), Imperial Tobacco Company became Imperial Group Limited, later Imperial Group PLC. The company was acquired by the conglomerate Hanson plc in 1986.
R1 cigarettes was launched in 1984 in Germany. Today, it has a strong position in Germany, Russia, the Ukraine, Poland and Greece. The modern Slim Line variant of cigarettes is segment leader in Greece and very popular in Eastern Europe.