British American Tobacco was founded in 1902 when the United Kingdom's Imperial Tobacco Company and the USA based American Tobacco Company created a joint venture.
Originally BAT conducted business in Canada, China, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. This was so the joint venture would not trade where Imperial Tobacco and American Tobacco had operations.
Over time, the 2 founding companies reduced their shareholding in the business. American Tobacco Company removed its interest in 1911 and Imperial Tobacco reduced its share until BAT was separated entirely in 1980.
A holding company called B.A.T. Industries was formed in 1976 to hold the various operating business of the company.
B.A.T. Industries experienced such success that in 1994 it was able to purchase its former parent American Tobacco Company and Rothamans International in 1999.
Ente Tabacchi Italiani was acquired by BAT in 2003, which allowed British American Tobacco to hold the 2nd place in market share in Italy.
In 2004 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company merged with the US operations of BAT (which were trading under Brown and Williamson). This created a new holding company named Reynolds America.
These moves have allowed British American Tobacco to become the second largest global tobacco company by market share.
British American Tobacco has been successful in reducing the financial costs of litigation has had on their business. The merger of BAT's US operations with RJ Reynolds Tobacco has largely protected BAT from litigation.
Outside the US, tobacco litigation has been restricted by differences in legal system compared to the US. Overseas, many countries do not permit punitive damages and class action. Also, lawyers are restricted from making huge earnings on a contingency basis. These factors combined have caused limited success in litigation in markets BAT operates in.