China’s state-owned cigarette monopoly, the China National Tobacco Corporation, may have a larger annual net profit than HSBC and Walmart, according to a report released this week by the Industrial Bank Co Ltd.
A rare glimpse into the tobacco-giant’s finances revealed a net income of 117.7 billion yuan (US$18.7 billion) in 2010 on sales of 770.4 billion yuan.
According to Bloomberg, HSBC reported $16.8 billion of profit for its most recent fiscal year while Wal-Mart reported a net income of $15.7 billion. The 2011 figures of China National Tobacco Corp. were not given.
Industrial Bank Co Ltd released the data because China National Tobacco Corp. is buying a 5.2 billion yuan stake in the Shanghai listed bank.
The state-owned tobacco company also passed the total profit of the world’s three biggest listed tobacco companies Philip Morris International Inc., British American Tobacco Plc and Altria Group in 2010.
According to a WHO report from 2010, China is home to about 350 million smokers, of which 57.4% are men and 2.6% are women. The report says that, as history shows, smoking is perceived as a sign of masculinity for Chinese men. Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping for instance were often depicted smoking cigarettes.
China ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on 11 October 2005 and issued a set of rules stating that smoking is banned in indoor public places in March 2011.
The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health released guidelines to improve tobacco control in schools in June 2011, saying that all indoor and outdoor areas of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools should be smoke free.
In February 2011, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued a notification prohibiting to show tobacco brands or indirect tobacco advertisement on Television.
However, around one million people in China die every year as a result of tobacco use and Chinese health authorities and the government are often criticized for not putting enough effort into preventing tobacco use. Bloomberg reported that the Chinese government derived more than $95 billion tax revenue from the tobacco industry last year.