LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Philip Morris International said on Friday it would invest up to 500 million euros ($679 million)to build a factory near Bologna, Italy to produce cigarette alternatives, a growing market as sales of traditional cigarettes weaken.
The company, which sells No. 1 cigarette brand Marlboro outside the United States, said construction on the factory is to begin immediately and take about two years. Once fully operational, it will employ up to 600 people.
The company's "reduced risk" portfolio includes products that heat tobacco rather than burning it. It plans to accelerate commercialisation of one of these products in the second half of 2014 in selected cities, before a full market launch in 2015.
The company said last month that it was teaming up with Altria Group, which sells Marlboro cigarettes in the United States, to exclusively sell each others' e-cigarettes and other alternative products.