UPDATE 1-Italy opens probe into BAT over covert advertising on social media

(Adds BAT statement)

ROME, May 31 (Reuters) - Italy’s antitrust regulator said on Monday it had launched a probe into the Italian unit of British America Tobacco (BAT) over alleged covert advertising of its tobacco heating product Glo Hyper on social media.

The watchdog said in a statement that three influencers who had commercial agreements with BAT invited their followers on Instagram to publish content linked to Glo Hyper, without specifying it was advertising.

It added that the Italian tax police had carried out inspections of BAT offices on May 27.

BAT Italia said in a statement that it was convinced it had acted in a correct manner and was confident the outcome of the probe would demonstrate this.

“(What happened) is a new situation, which does not fall under the authority’s guidelines, where over-age followers are encouraged to post photos of their life passions, tagging Glo,” the statement added.

BAT also said it would continue cooperating with the Italian regulator and provide any information requested. (Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Additional reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Cristina Carlevaro and Jan Harvey)