Imperial Tobacco in talks to buy Reynolds American, Lorillard brands amid merger speculation

Imperial Tobacco Group PLC says it's in discussions with U.S. cigarette makers Reynolds American Inc. and Lorillard Inc. to acquire some of their brands and assets amid talks of a possible merger.

The statement Friday follows media reports over the past few months that Reynolds and Lorillard are in talks to combine the two of the nation's biggest tobacco companies.

Imperial said there's no certainty as to whether a transaction will take place, but the British maker of Davidoff cigarettes said it would only buy certain assets if the terms met "strict transaction criteria."

Reynolds markets Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit cigarettes. Lorillard sells Newport, Maverick and Kent cigarettes.

Any merger would also likely involve British American Tobacco, which owns a 42 percent stake in Reynolds.