By  on September 14, 2007

PARIS — A tempest in a teapot.

That's how the analysts queried view resurgent speculation that L'Oréal may bid for Groupe Clarins.

During trading Wednesday, in the run-up to Clarins' profits announcement Thursday, the company's stock spiked more than 8 percent. It closed at 60 euros, or $83.28 at current exchange, up 7 percent versus the prior day's close.

"The market's so jittery at the moment," said one financial analyst, who requested anonymity. That analyst believes the market had responded to a confluence of events.

According to sources, broker Oddo Securities published Wednesday a report on L'Oréal in which it said Clarins would make an ideal prey. Oddo Securities would not release the report.

The analyst also believes the stock spike stemmed from the fact that L'Oréal executives have mentioned a desire to make either a large acquisition or a couple of medium-sized ones (the category into which Clarins would fall). Plus, the analyst said, Clarins has come out with somewhat disappointing numbers in the recent past. The trend continued Thursday, as the company reported a 12.4 percent drop in net profits for the first half.

The death of Clarins founder Jacques Courtin-Clarins in March added fuel to the rumor mill, since it was well known he opposed the sale of his company.

In April, his son, Olivier Courtin-Clarins, who is Clarins' vice president of research and development, confirmed the company is not for sale. "They are rumors," he told WWD at that point. "There is no change in capitalization. There is no need to sell. The company remains run by my brother and myself. There is no strategic change."

He was referring to his brother Christian, who is Clarins' president and chief executive officer. The family controls 65.1 percent of the company's capital and 78.6 percent of its voting rights.

On Thursday, Pankaj Chandarana, Clarins' finance director, would not comment on the recent speculation. Neither would a L'Oréal spokesman.

The subject of Clarins' possible takeover remains a perennial market favorite.

"The listed European leader in prestige skin care has been seen as an obvious and attractive consolidation target for years because of its niche market position," said Antoine Colonna, analyst at Merrill Lynch in a report called "Lap of Luxury IV, No Trojan War This Time Round," which was published on Aug. 29.

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