A provincial branch of a Chinese state corporation this week signed an agreement giving a U.S. firm exclusive worldwide distribution of Chinese tobacco products.
Asons Tobacco Corp., of North Miami Beach, Fla., will market tobacco products made by the Chandong Branch of China Tobacco Import & Export Corp. The agreement was signed by William D. Utanski, a vice president at Asons, and
Chang Duo Chuan, China Tobacco's vice general manager, during this month's Samples Fair in Milan, Italy.This is the first time China has made such an agreement with a U.S. firm for its tobacco products. Until now, the state corporation did its own foreign marketing, mainly in Hong Kong.
The Milan show is Italy's largest samples fair. It is part of the one-week Great April Fair that ends Sunday. The Great April Fair is one of the most important fairs for consumer products in Italy.
Asons beat out several international competitors to clinch the deal, according to a spokeswoman for Fiera Milano North American Representative, the U.S. arm of Fiera Milano, organizer of the international trade fairs at Milan. She would not give the names of the competitors nor their countries of origin.
The deal will substantially increase Asons' revenues, according to Bryan Kamm, international representative for the state of Florida, which sent a contingent of state-based companies to the Great April Fair in Milan.
Asons already has limited international distribution rights with the Liggett Group Inc., of Durham, N.C., the parent company of Liggett & Myers Inc.
Steve Utanski, a vice president of Asons, would not comment on the deal, saying it is his brother William who currently is negotiating with several companies at the fair.
In a telephone interview Thursday from Milan, Mr. Kamm said he had spoken with William Utanski and had been told that the "distribution rights will increase the revenue of Asons by about $75 million annually within the next three years."
This is the only substantial deal signed during the fair by any member of the Florida contingent, Mr. Kamm said.
The Florida participants also include Heathrow Land & Development Corp. and ITT Land Corp.
"During the initial five business days of the show, we had about 12 export leads per day," Mr. Kamm added. "We're very pleased with what happened this year, and we hope to participate again next year."
The state joined the Great April Fair for the first time last year, although its companies signed no deals, Mr. Kamm said.
"But we had about 60 to 70 export leads, which we passed on to companies in Florida," he added.
Florida leads a contingent of state-based companies to about nine trade shows in Europe and Asia every year, he said.