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Altria says it won US antitrust ruling on Juul stake

Altria said a US judge ruled in its favor following a trial on whether its acquisition of a stake in Juul violated anti-competition laws. ©AFP

New York (AFP) - Tobacco giant Altria said Tuesday it prevailed over a US regulatory agency that challenged its investment in vaping company Juul on antitrust grounds.

An administrative law judge sided with Altria, ruling after a three-week trial on an April 2020 complaint by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that had challenged Altria's 35 percent stake in Juul, Altria said.

"We are pleased with this decision and have said all along that our minority investment in Juul does not harm competition and does not violate the antitrust laws," said Murray Garnick, general counsel for Altria, the parent company to Philip Morris USA.

The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FTC had argued that Altria's 2018 investment in Juul -- originally valued at more than $12 billion -- had marred competition, leading to its quick exit from the e-cigarette market.

Since Altria acquired the Juul stake, Juul came under fire from regulators for targeting young consumers with advertisements for vaping.That controversy has led Altria to significantly write down the value of Juul.

Altria's investment in the vaping company was valued at $1.7 billion, according to its most recently quarterly securities filing.

Juul has agreed to multi-million settlements to resolve suits in Arizona and North Carolina over youth marketing.

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