A good safeguard when investing is to steer clear of problems - rather than hoping to solve them, you might as well just avoid them. And at BAT, these problems come in all shapes and sizes. Chief among them is the double-digit fall in fuel sales volumes, which can no longer be offset by repeated price increases. This dynamic is compounded by extreme legislative tension in the United States, where the Group generates half of its operating profit.

Unfortunately for shareholders, and contrary to what some of the media are reporting this morning, the asset write-down will not be tax-deductible, since it concerns goodwill rather than a capitalized investment. Nevertheless, it will have no impact on cash flow, and a priori on debt.

At the same time, management is swallowing another bitter pill for its shareholders, by finally admitting that its previous growth projections in the 5%-7% range were unrealistic. These have now been revised downwards to 3%-5%. Some will argue that this may still be too optimistic.

Fans of falling knives will salivate at the sight of a market capitalization that represents only a multiple of five to six years' profits, and a dividend yield that reaches 10%. Admittedly, there is £40 billion of net debt, but its maturity schedule remains well broken down, and BAT could monetize part of its stake - £15 billion at market prices - in Indian cigar maker ITC.

The British company is caught between three strategic orientations: buy back its shares, for a return in theory three times higher than the cost of its debt; play it safe and instead focus on deleveraging, at the risk of depressing profitability; or invest in new-generation products, known as NGP. So far, it has only timidly done a bit of all three, without satisfying anyone.

Where Philip Morris has built up an unassailable competitive position in NGP with its IQOS smoking tobacco brand, BAT has chosen to focus its strategy on vaper tobacco with Vuse. However, competition is fierce in this segment, and while we can legitimately expect to see it diminish as the legislator gets tougher, the delay in starting is glaring.

The same applies to chewing tobacco. Despite Velo's success, BAT still lags far behind its rival in terms of market penetration, especially since the latter's acquisition of Swedish Match. Philip Morris, the NGP pioneer, is secretly working on a spin-off of its fuel business, which would enable it to develop its new outlets and evacuate a substantial part of its debt.

BAT has announced that its NGP business should break even this year, and represent half of its sales by 2035 - almost ten years after Philip Morris. This is a very distant time horizon: if fuel volumes continue to fall at this rate, it won't be enough to save the day.