The cigarette company behind well-known brands such as Winston, Camel and Benson & Hedges has acquired a Worcestershire electronic cigarette firm.

Japan Tobacco has bought Bromsgrove-based E-Lites in an undisclosed deal, signalling the global company's entry into the e-cigarette market.

Zandera, the company which owns the E-Lites brand, was founded in 2009 by Adrian Everett and now has 70 staff.

Mr Evertt is a former RAF pilot who battled back from bankruptcy and lost three homes before leading the firm to £43 million of UK retail sales last year and turnover of £16 million in 2013/14.

Approximately 1.2 million Brits now use electronic products despite a ban on them in many places.

Masamichi Terabatake, Japan Tobacco International's executive vice-president and deputy chief executive, said: "Our investment in Zandera provides the JT Group with an excellent entry point into the fast-growing e-cigarette category.

"With E-Lites' well-established brand and product portfolio, we are able to offer adult consumers another important extension to our growing range of emerging and innovative products such as tobacco vapor pods."

The management team at Zandera will remain with the JT Group post-acquisition.

Mr Everett added: "With access to the JT Group's global distribution muscle as well as their research and development expertise, proven commitment to quality assurance and vision for emerging products, we look forward to growing the business and further enhancing E-Lites' product offering."

This transaction will be funded by Japan Tobacco's existing cash and loan facilities and is due to complete during the summer.

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