L’Occitane’s billionaire owner decides against deal to take company private

(This story has been refiled to correct the spelling of ‘billionaire’ in the headline and paragraph 4)

By Rishav Chatterjee

(Reuters) – Hong Kong-listed skincare specialist L’Occitane International SA said on Monday its controlling shareholder had decided against a potential deal to take the company private, curbing speculation of a possible European listing.

L’Occitane updated the market last month about a potential buyout offer from Chairman Reinold Geiger’s investment holding company, L’Occitane Groupe SA, at no less than HK$26.00 ($3.32) per share.

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.

Austrian billionaire Geiger has 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 $5.22 billion 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.

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

The company is listed in Hong Kong at a time when a number of firms from the West are looking to boost exposure to the rapidly growing Chinese market.

Shares in the Luxembourg- and Geneva-headquartered company, which were placed on a halt, will resume trading on Tuesday.

Last month Bloomberg News reported that Geiger was discussing a possible offer of about HK$35 for each L’Occitane share he does 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.

L’Occitane listed in Hong Kong in 2010, and at the time was one of the first western companies to sell its primary shares in the Asian financial hub.

($1 = 7.8344 Hong Kong dollars)

(Reporting by Rishav Chatterjee and Himanshi Akhand in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman, David Holmes and Jan Harvey)