Interferences | Law & Policy

The Government of Bangladesh’s investment in British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB)


The Government of Bangladesh (GoB), through different bodies and institutions, holds 9.48 percent share in British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB)[1]. It has been alleged by anti-tobacco organizations of Bangladesh that the multinational company is using the govt. partnership to infiltrate administration and policymaking with a view to undermining tobacco control measures[2].

GoB’s partnership with BATB

The GoB’s shares in BATB are distributed under 01 (one) govt. owned bank, 01 (one) non-bank financial institution, 01 (one) insurance company and also the position of the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. According to BATB Annual Report 2019[3], the Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB)[4] owns 5.82 percent share in BATB. The percentages are 0.33 percent and 2.82 percent for Bangladesh Development Bank Limited (BDBL)[5], a govt. owned bank and Sadharan Bima Corporation[6], a govt. owned insurance company. The position of the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh also holds a share of 0.64 percent[7].

GoB appointed Directors in BATB

For its share in BATB, the GoB appointed 05 (five) current and retired high-level government officials as Independent Directors in BATB’s Board of Directors[8]. The number is high, more than double, compared to GoB’s involvement in other multinational companies. For example, in IPDC Finance Limited where GoB owns 21.88 percent share, the number of Directors appointed by GoB stands at 02 (two). Similar instances can be found in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Bangladesh Limited and Linde Bangladesh7.

Protests demanding divestment

The anti-tobacco organizations have staged protests demanding the government to withdraw its share from BATB[9].  The Bangladesh Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019[10], prepared by PROGGA[11], includes divestment as recommendations for GoB, stating:

­The government must divest its investment from tobacco companies within a specific period of time. Recommendation 7.2 of Article 5.3 states that countries that do not have a State-owned tobacco industry should not invest in the tobacco industry and related ventures. Tobacco companies take advantage of such investment and involvement and infiltrate government ministries to interfere in the formulation and implementation of tobacco control policies and measures.”

While addressing GoB’s involvement in BATB, the Bangladeshi Watchdog Tobacco Industry Watch BD wrote,

“… in 2018, the government received BDT 28 crore (around USD 3.2 million[12]) as dividend from the multinational tobacco company. In the same year, BATB was offered a staggering tax relief, amounting to more than BDT 2000 crore (more than USD 2352.77 million) through a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) by the country’s National Board of Revenue (NBR). This indicates that BATB is abusing the govt.’s share, obtaining tax reliefs and other benefits in return for a very negligible profit. The SRO issued to grant BATB the relief was signed NBR’s chairman who served the company as an Independent Director for a prolonged period of time.”7

It should be noted that Bangladesh is among the top three countries in the world facing the highest level of interference of tobacco industry, according to the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019[13], prepared by STOP Project[14]


[1] PROGGA, 2019 Bangladesh Tobacco Industry Interference Index: Report on Implementation of FCTC Article 5.3, Conflict of Interest (page 4), October 2019, accessed June 2020

[2] SUPRO demands withdrawal of government’s share from British American Tobacco, The Business Standard, 30 January 2020, accessed June 2020  

[3] British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB), Annual Report 2019 (page 51), undated, accessed June 2020

[4] Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB), Annual Report 2018-19, undated, accessed June 2020

[5] Bangladesh Development Bank Ltd. (BDBL), Corporate Profile,  undated, accessed May 2020

[6] Sadharan Bima Corporation, About Us, undated, access May 2020

[7] PROGGA, Public Health on Top, Tobacco Industry Watch BD E-newsletter, January 2020, accessed May 2020

[8] British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB), Annual Report 2018 (Page 43), undated, accessed June 2020

[9] Demands to divest government shares in British American Tobacco, The Dhaka Tribune, 30 October 2016, accessed June 2020

[11] PROGGA, About Us, undated, accessed June 2020

[13] Mary Assunta, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019, Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), September 2019, accessed June 2020

[14] Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products (STOP), undated, accessed May 2020


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