P&G Said to Kick Off Sale of Beauty Brands Including Wella

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Photographer: Wolfgang von Brauchitsch/Bloomberg

Procter & Gamble Co. has kicked off the sale of some of its beauty brands as the world’s biggest consumer-product maker seeks to shed laggard assets, people familiar with the matter said.

P&G has sent out sale documents to potential bidders for its Wella haircare unit, cosmetics brands and its fragrance business, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the sale isn’t public. The businesses could be sold individually or combined, and could fetch as much as $19 billion altogether, said one of the people.

The company has reached out to potential buyers including Henkel AG, Revlon Inc., Unilever, Kao Corp., and Coty Inc., the people said. Officials at P&G, Henkel, Revlon, Coty and Kao declined to comment. Unilever didn’t immediately respond to requests to comment.

The sale is part of a plan, announced by Chief Executive Officer A.G. Lafley in August, to reinvigorate growth by divesting as many as 100 of the Cincinnati-based company’s slower-selling brands that account for about 10 percent of its $83 billion in revenue. The units on the block generate about $8 billion in annual sales and $1.5 billion in profit, Exane BNP Paribas estimates.

European Suitors

“P&G will likely announce the disposal of a meaningful part of its Beauty business over coming months,” Exane analyst Jeff Stent said in an April 8 note to clients. “European listed home- and personal-care companies will very likely be among the acquirers. We would be surprised if Henkel and Unilever do not acquire some assets.”

P&G rose 0.5 percent to $82.77 at the close in New York, giving it a market value of about $224 billion.

Alongside a potential sale, P&G is also exploring an initial public offering of some of its beauty brands, people with knowledge of the matter said in March. The troubled beauty division, which includes the Cover Girl, Max Factor, and Clairol brands, is now led by David Taylor, who expanded his responsibilities earlier this year as Lafley streamlines the business.

P&G has been working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on a possible sale of Wella since at least December, people familiar with the discussions said at the time. More than half of Wella’s $2.8 billion in revenue is generated from hair salons, a sales channel that has no connection with the rest of P&G’s business, Exane’s Stent said in the note. P&G is also considering selling part of the Wella business, one of the people said.

Henkel’s Resources

Dusseldorf, Germany-based Henkel, which owns Schwarzkopf shampoo, has as much as 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion) available for deals, and CEO Kasper Rorsted bought three U.S. haircare businesses last year. Henkel bought a 6.9 percent stake in Wella in March 2003, only to see P&G acquire most of the voting shares two weeks later. Wella was founded by German hairdresser Franz Stroher in 1880.

“We believe that the most likely acquirer is Henkel,” Stent said.

P&G’s cosmetics units Cover Girl and Max Factor have been hurt by a growing consumer preference for smaller brands, which can reach shoppers through online marketing, Stent said. Cover Girl’s market share in the U.S. has declined to 8.7 percent from 10.8 percent over the past five years, according to researcher Euromonitor.

‘Deep Pockets’

“If one wants to enter the beauty industry, one no longer requires sufficiently deep pockets to be able to fund mass market TV advertising,” Stent said.

Potential acquirers of the two cosmetics brands include Revlon, Coty and Kao, he said.

P&G has also been steadily losing market share in its fragrance business, which accounts for about $2.5 billion in sales and includes brands licensed by Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. Lafley, who returned to lead P&G in 2013 after his hand-picked successor departed, criticized the business at a November analyst meeting, saying it performed better when it had just three or four brands rather than “20 plus.”

Other P&G divisions that could be candidates for sale include Braun, the maker of electric shavers and toothbrushes, Bloomberg News reported in November. Last year, P&G agreed to sell portions of the Camay and Zest soap brands to Unilever, and the Duracell battery business to Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

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