L’Occitane shares shed 30% after owner shelves take-private deal

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – Hong Kong-listed skincare specialist L’Occitane International SA shares fell almost 30% on Tuesday after its chairman and controlling shareholder said he decided against a deal to take the company private, curbing speculation of a European listing.

L’Occitane’s stock slid to HK$19.70 in early trading after Chairman Reinold Geiger’s investment holding company, L’Occitane Groupe SA, decided not to go ahead with a take-private offer it last month said would be worth no less than HK$26.00 a share.

L’Occitane’s market capitalisation declined to HK$29 billion ($3.70 billion) from HK$40.9 billion based on the stock’s last closing price on Friday.

Sources had earlier told Reuters that Geiger had also been speaking to advisers about the possibility of re-listing the skincare products group on a European exchange as soon as next year.

L’Occitane Groupe SA owned 72.5% of the skincare firm at the end of May.

L’Occitane listed in Hong Kong in 2010 and was one of the first Western companies to sell its primary shares in the Asian financial hub as it looked to boost its exposure to the rapidly growing Chinese market.

Austrian billionaire Geiger doubled sales at the beauty-store chain over the last decade, with the retailer now having 3,000 outlets in 90 countries selling organic beauty products.

However, the firm lags behind peers in the cosmetic sector, including French firm L’Oreal SA, in terms of its forward price to earnings ratio.

Italian fashion house Prada SpA has also been seeking a dual listing in Italy along with its Hong Kong listing.

Hong Kong has recently emerged as an epicentre of buyout deals, with a range of companies having depressed valuations.

Imax Corp, the big-screen cinema company, is set to assume full control of its listed Chinese entity, while snack maker Dali Foods Group also received a takeover proposal in June.

Bloomberg News last month reported Geiger was discussing a possible offer of about HK$35 for each L’Occitane share he did not already own.

The company later clarified that if a deal were to go through, the potential offer price would be no less than HK$26.00 per share.

($1 = 7.8399 Hong Kong dollars)

(Reporting by Donny Kwok in Hong Kong and Roxanne Liu in Beijing; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Jamie Freed)