Britain's Imperial Tobacco has made an unsolicited bid approach for Altadis, the Franco-Spanish tobacco firm said on Thursday, announcing a cash bid valuing the firm at 11.53
billion euros ($15.2 billion).
In a statement to the Spanish stock market, Altadis said the offer at 45 euros a share was dependent on approval by the Madrid-based company's board, which would meet in the next few days to discuss the offer.
Later confirming the approach, Imperial said discussions were at an early stage and there could be no certainty that the approach would lead to an offer.
The approach brings to a head more than two years of speculation that Altadis was in Imperial's sights. Hostile bids are generally viewed as difficult to execute in the highly-regulated tobacco sector and have not been attempted in recent years.
Altadis, the maker of Fortuna cigarettes which controls a quarter of the world's cigar market, has repeatedly said it sees itself as a buyer of assets, not a takeover target, and has no plans to sell any of its three units.
Altadis shares were suspended before the open in Madrid, but in Paris they jumped 9.5% to 42.50 euros before they too were suspended.
Imperial shares were trading 6.6% percent higher at 2.82 pounds.
On Tuesday a newspaper report said Altadis had been approached by Imperial about a possible friendly merger, to fend off a possible hostile bid by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts a report Altadis then dismissed as "groundless."
Spain's stock market regulator said it was lifting its suspension on Altadis shares, as well as a
suspension on Altadis logistics unit Logista, which was earlier the subject of trader speculation over a bid.