By  on March 4, 1994

NEW YORK -- With manufacturing in Germany, perfumery in France and research and development in Monaco, the Lancaster Group is a company with several nationalities. Now it has acquired another: American.

This week, it took a major step toward turning the German prestige beauty company into one of the handful of global cosmetics giants, moving its corporate headquarters from Wiesbaden, Germany, to a new 65,473-square-foot home in midtown Manhattan.

Lancaster's worldwide fragrance and cosmetics volume totaled $800 million in 1993, according to Peter Harf, chief executive officer of Lancaster and its parent, the Benckiser Group of Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Harf, who is the architect of the globalization drive, said he is aiming for annual growth rates of 15 to 20 percent going forward -- without acquisitions.

Harf did not elaborate, but sources indicate that his goals fit the pattern that has already been established at Lancaster.

The company chalked up a 22 percent increase last year, attributed largely to a 200 percent growth in four markets -- the U.S. and U.K., which were established in 1991, and Canada and Australia, which were entered last year. Lancaster also had a 50 percent increase in the global duty-free market. Another factor was the stronger-than-expected launch last year of Lancaster's Skin Therapy treatment item in Europe and the U.S.

The U.S. subsidiary, also located in New York and headed by Richard G. Hartigan, is the fastest-growing of Lancaster's major overseas businesses.

Sales reportedly approached $110 million last year; the goal by the end of 1996 is $300 million.

Lancaster does one-third of its global total in the German home market and is expected to do 20 percent this year in the U.S., according to sources. The next biggest markets are Italy, then Spain.

Harf said the move to the U.S. was designed not only to spur the continuation of the fast-paced U.S. growth, but also to give Lancaster an entry into South America and, more importantly, Japan.

"We felt that the U.S. is absolutely pivotal to a global approach," Harf said.

"The next big investment will be to go into Japan," Harf said, noting that the company now has a small subsidiary there and will probably make its move in two years.

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