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Fulfilling a long-held ambition, Coty Inc. began life as a public company this year.
Chief executive officer Michele Scannavini celebrated the firm’s initial public offering by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on June 13, standing alongside his executive team and designer Vera Wang, whose fragrances are produced by Coty.
“It was a defining moment for us,” said Scannavini. “We worked so hard over the last year to get there.”
The firm’s first day of trading got off to a lukewarm start with shares closing at $17.36, below their initial price of $17.50. Shares have since largely remained in the $15 to $16 range. Investors may be taking a wait-and-see approach to the company, which has seen a slowdown in top-line growth so far this year.
For his part, Scannavini wasted no time mapping out a growth plan, detailing it in September during Coty’s first earnings call as a public company. It includes maximizing the growth potential of its 10 power brands with “superior innovation”; strengthening the company’s position in fragrance and color cosmetics while expanding the skin- and body-care business; growing emerging-markets to account for one-third of revenues within five years, up from one-fourth currently; leveraging its multidistribution strategy to cover all price points; continuing to grow margin through supply-chain productivity, and generating sustainable and profitable growth through improved earnings and capital reduction.
But Coty’s stock hit a low of $14.99 on Nov. 8 after the company said that an abrupt slowdown in nail color and fragrance took a toll on top-line sales. In the quarter ended Sept. 30, net revenues decreased 2.9 percent on a reported basis to $1.18 billion compared with $1.21 billion in the year-ago period. On a like-for-like basis, net revenues declined 2.6 percent.
Scannavini told Wall Street analysts on an earnings call that he sees the sales weakness as “short term,” and that he expects Coty to return to top-line growth in line with or better than the markets where it competes in the second half. He cited the company’s investment in emerging markets and a robust pipeline of products designed for them, including Adidas shampoo in China and fragrances tailored for the Middle East, as well as innovation across key brands, such as Calvin Klein and Sally Hansen, as upcoming growth drivers.
The IPO marked the end of shifting strategies to enter the public markets. In May 2012, Coty resumed work on the offering after its failed attempt to acquire the much larger, but struggling direct seller Avon Products Inc. with a bid of $10.7 billion. The following month, it filed the initial paperwork for an IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But an unexpected ceo change delayed the process, pushing it into 2013, said industry sources. In July 2012, Bernd Beetz, the mastermind of Coty’s current business strategy, stepped down and was succeeded by Scannavini, who was formerly president of Coty Prestige and largely considered Beetz’s right-hand man.
During Beetz’s tenure, the company rounded out its portfolio by acquiring several color-cosmetics and skin-care brands. In recent years, it accelerated that effort, by spending $2.14 billion to buy TJoy, Dr. Scheller, OPI and Philosophy.