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German Retailer Douglas in Discussions on Buying Nocibe

Douglas Holding AG, the German cosmetics retailer owned by Advent International Corp., is in exclusive talks to buy French competitor Nocibe SA to strengthen its position in Europe’s fragrance market.

Douglas’s shareholders are negotiating to acquire Nocibe from Charterhouse Capital Partners LLP in a deal that would create France’s largest perfume chain by outlets, the Hagen-based company said today in a statement, without disclosing a price. Nocibe may be valued at about 500 million euros ($684 million), people with knowledge of the matter said in July.

A takeover would be “a big opportunity to build-up our position in the perfumery market in Europe,” Douglas Chief Executive Officer Henning Kreke said on a conference call. “France is a particularly important market. We will continue to look at growth opportunities in France.”

Douglas is the fourth-biggest French fragrance retailer, while Nocibe, based in Villeneuve d’Ascq near the northern city of Lille, is third-largest. The combined group would rank second in the industry by revenue, behind LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA’s Sephora SA. Douglas currently has 170 stores in France, where it has 1,000 employees and revenue of about 130 million euros, Kreke told journalists. Nocibe has 455 outlets with 3,000 employees and revenue of 470 million euros, he said.

Advent’s Acquisition

Manfred Kroneder, head of Douglas’s perfume business, said in June that the company wants to become the leader in its main European markets and plans to grow through targeted acquisitions. Douglas has as much as 500 million euros ($684 million) available to expand the division in the next seven years, he said at the time. Douglas owners declined to comment today on other countries where the company plans to expand.

Advent bought control of Douglas for 1.5 billion euros in a transaction that was completed in July. The founding Kreke family is the German retailer’s other owner.

Charterhouse acquired Nocibe from Bridgepoint Advisers Ltd. in 2006 for 490 million euros. Charterhouse was also holding talks with LBO France on a possible sale of Nocibe, people with knowledge of the process said in May.

Nocibe was created in 1984. The company sells its own beauty products as well as others such as La Petite Robe Noire fragrance by Guerlain and TommyGuns shampoo. Nocibe also offers beauty services such as facials and makeup courses. The acquisition of Nocibe would create a chain of 625 stores with about 4,000 employees, Douglas said today.

The transaction is subject to customary approvals, including the completion of the consultation process with the workers’ councils and antitrust clearance, Douglas said.

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