INTERVIEW-Japan Tobacco working on several possible M&A deals-CEO

TOKYO, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Japan Tobacco Inc, which is on the hunt for overseas acquisitions to offset a shrinking home market, is working on several possible deals as it targets growth in Asia and other emerging markets, its new chief executive said on Wednesday.

Masamichi Terabatake told Reuters he saw potential for deals in South America, Africa and Middle East, in addition to Asia, where his company is already active having spent about $2 billion last year on tobacco businesses in the Philippines and Indonesia.

"We have a long list and a short list (of potential targets), there are various deals in the works," Terabatake, who became CEO of the world's fourth-largest tobacco company on Jan. 1, said in an interview.

The former state monopoly is accelerating its overseas M&A drive as it grapples with falling cigarette sales in Japan, where it commands 60 percent of the market.

Terabatake declined to comment on specific deals, including whether his company is interested in British rival Imperial Brands.

But he said that "very large deals are likely to face antitrust issues. I think it's very difficult to successfully complete deals we cannot do alone."

Analysts say Japan Tobacco would likely be unable to buy Imperial's entire business and would need to join forces with other buyers to clear antitrust hurdles, given Imperial's big market presence in United Kingdom and other countries. (Reporting by Taiga Uranaka and Ritsuko Shimizu; Editing by Chris Gallagher)