I’m a bit pressed for time, but here’s a very quick rundown of some first impressions of InterTabac 2019 before I head to a dinner I’m already running late to.

1. The Facelift is Complete

For the last two years, the Westfalenhallen, the home of the InterTabac trade fair, has been under construction. While I wouldn’t have thought there was anything wrong with the old building, upon closer reflection I think comparisons to a prison are more than fair. The new building is great: modern, open, spacious.

This also means that for the first time in quite some time, the layout seems to make sense with the entrances and how the show is divided. In short, one half is very clearly vaping and alternative products, along with InterSupply, while the other is traditional tobacco products, including cigars.

2. Some Layout Changes

Arnold André, a distributor for J.C. Newman, Joya de Nicaragua, La Aurora and others—also formerly Davidoff—has decided to not exhibit at this year’s show. That means there were some changes to Hall 3, where many cigar companies are located. For the most part, booths don’t move around year-to-year at InterTabac, so this change is noteworthy. It wasn’t just Arnold André, I’m told one other large tobacco company, albeit not a premium cigar-related one, also pulled out.

For the most part everything is still where it is at, particularly in Hall 4, but it’s changed things around in Hall 3. For its parts, Joya de Nicaragua already had its own stand, J.C. Newman now has its own stand, while La Aurora appears to not be at this year’s InterTabac.

It’s also raised questions about what happens going forward. There are some rumblings that other companies are looking to scale back at future shows, something that sounds all too familiar.

3.  Scandinavian Tobacco Group, Agio & Imperial

All anyone wants to talk about—at least to me—is about the major acquisition that just happened—STG buying Agio—and the one that is presumed to be happening soon: Imperial Brands, plc selling its cigar companies (Altadis U.S.A., JR Cigar, 50 percent of Habanos S.A. and more.)

While Agio’s impact in the U.S. market might not be that of a company that sold for a nine-figure sum, its presence in Europe is massive. The impacts of its sale for its workers, distributors and retail customers will also be massive. As I stated earlier this week, despite the company’s long history in tobacco, I think the sale price was more than fair. I don’t think anyone outside of STG is particularly happy about it, but I don’t think anyone is faulting STG for doing it.

As for Imperial, I disagree with some of what people are speculating about the Imperial sale. Many Europeans seem to think the sale will be announced next week, I suspect it will be later—perhaps next month, in line with what Imperial said—though some of the more high-level sources have even stated as late as Q1 2020. What is clear is that Imperial has narrowed bidding down, to a total of three buyers from what I’m told. It seems like that all of those bidders are based in Asia: the Middle East and China.

One thing that is a bit interesting with the Imperial sale is that no one has really provided any speculation about the price. Some of that might be due to the stronger-than-expected interest in the cigar assets, perhaps some of that is due to the sheer magnitude of the sale for the premium cigar business, likely the first billion-dollar sale for just premium cigars. Whatever the case, as Imperial has said repeatedly over the last couple of months, the sale seems a certainty, something that wasn’t the case many months ago.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.