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Universal declares dividends

| August 5, 2015

Universal Corporation’s board of directors yesterday declared a quarterly dividend of $0.52 per common share, payable on November 9 to shareholders of record at the close of business on October 13.

In addition, the board declared a quarterly dividend of $16.875 per share on the Series B 6.75% Convertible Perpetual Preferred Stock (Series B Preferred Stock) payable on September 15 to shareholders of record as of 17.00 Eastern Time on September 1.

‘Effective with the payment of the company’s common stock dividend on August 10, 2015, the company will adjust the conversion rate on its Series B Preferred Stock,’ Universal said in announcing the dividends. ‘The adjusted conversion rate on the Series B Preferred Stock will be 22.1952 common shares per $1,000 of liquidation preference of Series B Preferred Stock. ‘The new rate is equivalent to a conversion price of approximately $45.05 per common share.’

Kovacevic joins Nicopure Labs

| August 4, 2015

Patricia Kovacevic

Patricia I. Kovacevic has joined Nicopure Labs as general counsel and chief compliance officer.

With extensive U.S. and international e-cigarette and tobacco experience, Kovacevic has held senior legal and compliance positions at Philip Morris International, Lorillard and ITG Brands. Kovacevic was instrumental in securing the first ever premarket approvals for newly regulated tobacco products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Reporting to Nicopure Labs founders, Jeffrey Stamler and Jason Del Giudice, Kovacevic will assume responsibilities for the company’s global legal affairs, regulatory and compliance matters, as well as public policy engagement.

“Patricia is a world-renowned expert in regulatory compliance and experienced leader in managing legal teams and issues across different jurisdictions,” the company wrote in a press release. “Her professional expertise and personal commitment to the unique harm reduction opportunities presented by vaping products is the ideal match for our company’s and the industry’s relentless expansion and our commitment to product standards and compliance. We are excited to have Patricia join our management team.”

Kovacevic holds a law degree from Columbia Law School and is admitted to practice in New York and before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Based in Tampa, Florida, USA, Nicopure Labs is a leading e-liquid and vaporizer device manufacturer with operations in the U.S. and Europe.


Pacific Rim ministers fail to agree secret trade deal

| August 4, 2015

Trade ministers from12 Pacific Rim nations failed to finalize the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on the weekend, as they had been expected to do.

Quite what went wrong – or right – is difficult to know because the negotiations have been held in secret and what little has come to light has been courtesy of Wikileaks.

One sticking point seems to have come from grassroots resistance over the Investor-state Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions within the agreement. These provisions would, it is believed, allow companies investing in a country to sue the government of that country if the company deemed the government had passed laws that would negatively affect the company’s business.

It seems, too, that under the provisions the disputes would be held before secret, extrajudicial tribunals whose deliberations would never be made public, despite the fact that the public, in the guise of taxpayers, would be liable to any costs awarded against governments.

Some have brushed aside the ISDS issue as being overblown because such provisions have formed part of many international trade agreements in the past and have led to relatively few disputes. But others counter that the rate of increase in respect of such disputes is becoming exponential.

The tobacco industry is a focus of attention at the moment because the bête noire of ISDS opponents is currently Philip Morris Asia, which is understood to be fighting the Australian government over standardized tobacco packaging in a secretive tribunal being held in Singapore. The dispute is said already to have cost Australian taxpayers A$50 million.

One thing that does not seem to be aired is why the ISDS tribunals have to be extrajudicial and held in secret.

It is believed that other disputes have arisen over patent rights and so-called intellectual property rights.

The trade ministers from the 12 countries involved said on Friday that they had made significant progress on the agreement and would continue to work on resolving a ‘limited number of remaining issues’, according to a TMA note citing the US Trade Representative.

The statement apparently said the negotiators would remain in ‘close contact’ and continue their intensive engagement to find common ground and also continue to work to formalize the agreements reached so far.

They added that they were more confident than ever that the TPPA was within reach and would support jobs and economic growth across the Asia Pacific region.

Two extensive backgrounds to what is known about the TPPA are at:; and:

Russia posts another 30,000 cigarette outlets

| August 4, 2015

Cigarettes are due to go on sale in Russian post offices, according to a story in the Moscow Times quoting the pro-government daily Izvestia.

In line with an agreement reached between Russia’s national mail service, Russian Post, and four tobacco companies, British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco, cigarettes will be sold through 30,000 post offices across the country. Russian Post has 42,000 outlets throughout the country, and many of them are in small villages.

‘This [the agreement] will provide easier access to the high-quality essential commodities for those living in rural areas,’ Russian Post was quoted as saying in a statement.

But Anti-tobacco Coalition chairperson Daria Khalturina sees more harm than good in the deal.

Khalturina told Izvestia that such an expansion of tobacco distribution ran counter to the state’s policy of reducing the number of smokers in the country.

BAT to close documents depository

| August 4, 2015

British American Tobacco said on Friday that it intends to close its Guildford Depository, a publicly accessible depository that was established in 1999 as part of a settlement in a US lawsuit entitled State of Minnesota v. Philip Morris, et al.

BAT, which was released from the requirement to maintain the depository in 2011, says that it will be closed on October 31.

“British American Tobacco has not been legally obliged to keep the Guildford Depository open for several years and it is a facility that is expensive to maintain,” a company spokesperson was quoted as saying in a note posted on its website.

“The vast majority of documents in the Guildford Depository are available online via third party websites and we haven’t received any visitors to the site in over three years.

“That said, we hope that by providing three months’ notice, anyone interested in visiting the site will have the opportunity to do so before it closes.”

BAT said that all of the Guildford Depository documents would be moved to a long-term storage facility and retained.

New president for Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco

| August 4, 2015

The Philippines’ Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) has named a new president to take over from Paul Riley, according to an ABS-CBN News story.

The company said that Roman Militsyn would take over as the new president on August 16.

Militsyn has been managing director of Philip Morris’ affiliate in Argentina since 2011. He started working for Philip Morris in 1994.

Riley, who will transfer to Philip Morris International, Japan, this month, will be assisting Militsyn during the transition period.

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