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Lorillard buys e-cigarette maker

RICHMOND — Lorillard Inc., the nation’s third-biggest tobacco company, has acquired UK-based electronic cigarette maker SKYCIG for about $49 million to expand its global presence in the fast-growing business.

Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard, said Tuesday it also will pay up to $49 million more in 2016 if the company meets certain financial performance benchmarks.

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Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices made of plastic or metal that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. Users get their nicotine without the chemicals, tar, or odor of regular cigarettes. And they get to hold something shaped like a cigarette, while puffing and exhaling something that looks like smoke.

The world’s biggest tobacco companies have either bought into, or are closely watching, the category as they look to diversify. Since the devices hit the market nearly a decade ago, sales have spiked so quickly some analysts predict they will outsell traditional cigarettes within a decade.

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