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Suitors for Beiersdorf Continue Discussions

BERLIN — The plot concerning potential suitors for Beiersdorf continues to thicken.<br><br>German financial circles reported that Henkel has been in informal talks with Beiersdorf’s major shareholders, Tchibo and Allianz. <br><br>According...

BERLIN — The plot concerning potential suitors for Beiersdorf continues to thicken.

German financial circles reported that Henkel has been in informal talks with Beiersdorf’s major shareholders, Tchibo and Allianz.

According to analysts and industry observers, nothing came of Henkel’s overtures. Neither Henkel, Tchibo, Allianz nor Beiersdorf would comment on the reports. However, Henkel has made no secret of its desire to grow its beauty business through acquisitions, but lost out to Procter & Gamble for both Wella and Clairol. The Düsseldorf-based maker of Fa body care products, Schwarzkopf hair color and Persil detergent has an estimated war chest of about $7.5 billion at its disposal. This, however, wouldn’t be enough to fully acquire Beiersdorf, which has a stock value of more than $10.7 billion. All dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

Allianz holds 43.6 percent of Beiersdorf and Tchibo has 30 percent. Other near deals for Beiersdorf have faltered due to Tchibo’s blocking minority. Tchibo has long wanted to buy out Allianz’s stake, but the German insurance and financial services company has been holding out for the best possible price. Last week, Tchibo seemed to be throwing in the towel when chief executive officer Reinhard Pollath said its chances of acquiring Allianz’s stake in Beiersdorf “look narrower.” However, that may just have been a ploy to “finally get Allianz to move and sell Tchibo its share,” one analyst noted.

Various scenarios have been suggested regarding a Henkel takeover or involvement in Beiersdorf. One has Henkel and Tchibo jointly acquiring Beiersdorf on a 50/50 basis. Another has the two firms jointly acquiring Allianz’s stake, with Henkel keeping 29 percent and Tchibo adding a further 15 percent. Still another has Henkel acquiring Allianz’s 43.6 percent share and buying further shares on the market, with Tchibo retaining its 30 percent.

“But this doesn’t fit Henkel’s strategy,” an analyst pointed out. “First, Henkel said it doesn’t want to spend its entire war chest on one company. Moreover, a takeover of Beiersdorf would dampen Henkel’s profits for longer than the two-year period it said such pressure would be acceptable. And in the case where Tchibo retained its 30 percent, that could make it difficult for Henkel to fully integrate Beiersdorf,” which is necessary for desired synergies, etc.

This story first appeared in the May 20, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

His bet on who’ll finally get Beiersdorf? “Tchibo will win the race, but it could still take several months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Henkel is still figuring prominently in the shareholder spat with P&G over its offer for Wella’s preferred shares. At the Efficient Consumer Response conference in Berlin last week, Henkel ceo Ulrich Lehner called the second offer of $76 “still very low.”

Henkel has not made a decision on whether it will accept the offer or not. The company has a 6.8 percent stake in Wella — 4.9 percent of ordinary shares and 10.38 percent of preferred shares — and could be instrumental in preventing a “squeeze out” that would enable P&G to delist Wella as a separate company. P&G has already said it will not raise its latest offer.