BAT among the final bidders for Turkey's Tekel

British American Tobacco, the owner of Dunhill and Lucky Strike cigarettes, is among four groups that have submitted final bids for Tekel Cigarette, the state-owned Turkish cigarette group.

An auction for the group, which analysts value at $1bn-$1.5bn (£513m-£769m), could be held by the end of the week.

The other final bidders are one consortium that includes Turkish conglomerate Dogan Holding; another consortium including the Turkish construction group Lima Insaat; and the private equity firm Cinven, which is bidding in a consortium under the name of Strand Investment.

The auction will be shown on Turkish television and is also expected to be recorded by international channels such as CNN to avoid allegations of corruption.

The government opened the sale of Tekel late last year. This is the third time the Turkish government has tried to sell the cigarette maker. Previous attempts have failed because the government did not get the price it wanted or it did not get sufficient bids.

The Turkish cigarette market is dominated by Philip Morris, which has a 40 per cent share. Tekel, whose market share has been declining, has about 29 per cent and Japan Tobacco International about 14 per cent.

BAT, the world's second-biggest tobacco group, has a share of almost 7 per cent and believes that further investment in Turkey makes strategic sense as cigarette sales remain stable in the country.

However, the Turkish government has plans to impose a ban on smoking in all public places within the next 18 months, including on public transport and in sports stadiums.

Turkey is the eighthlargest tobacco market in the world.

A strong global presence has helped BAT sustain healthy profits.

Last year, BAT increased prices in many countries, including Brazil and Vietnam, and saw increased demand for its higher-priced brands, including Kent and Dunhill, in emerging markets such as Russia.

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