Clarins buy-out rumours prompt investor speculation

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Rumours that the world's largest cosmetic company, L'Oreal, is
moving closer to buying up Clarins have prompted shares in the
luxury cosmetics player to jump.

Speculation in financial circles and the press that a take-over is imminent has been renewed after L'Oreal raised €1.5bn from the sale of its 1.8 per cent stake in pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi-Aventis, on Wednesday. Industry experts widely believe that this move will free L'Oreal up to become more acquisitive in the coming months, as it continues to expand its market presence by concentrating on new niches. Indeed, a day after selling its stake in the pharmaceuticals giant, L'Oreal announced the acquisition of Turkish hair care business Canan, one of the country's leading players with a turnover of €26m. But the Canan deal is relatively small, meaning that there is still plenty left in the war chest for further acquisitions. Clarins is a relatively small player but an important brand because of its global associations with prestige skin care. The company had a turnover of €967m in 2006. However, since the death of its founder earlier this year, speculation over Clarins' future has intensified, helping to boost is share price on the Paris Bourse, despite the fact that recent financial results have failed to shine. Jacques Courtin-Clarins died in March this year and since then rumours over one of the industry's last remaining independent players have linked it to potential take-over bids by Procter & Gamble, as well as luxury goods group LVMH. The company has been particularly hard hit by difficulties in the highly competitive US market, where sales fell heavily at the start of the year, but rallied for the most recent third quarter results. Yesterday Clarin's share prices closed at €59.81, up €2.58 while L'Oreal's share prices have also rallied in the last couple of days following the sale of the Sanofi-Aventis stake. Although both Clarins and L'Oreal executives have officially denied any speculation over a possible deal, the financial world has responded to the speculation by upping their recommendations for both companies.

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