PARIS — Germany’s Cosmopolitan Cosmetics is building its prestige toiletries base.

Cosmopolitan Cosmetics GmbH, Wella AG’s Cologne, Germany-based cosmetics and fragrance arm, has acquired the brand rights and business operations of Atkinsons, the Milan-based beauty firm, from Lever Faberge Srl, a Unilever Italia SpA subsidiary, for $43.4 million.

Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

"The acquisition of the Atkinsons business is an excellent addition to the highly profitable luxury toiletries segment of Cosmopolitan Cosmetics," said Heiner Gurtler, chief executive officer of Wella, in a statement, referring to the division that also includes the 4711 and Yardley brands. Cosmopolitan Cosmetics GmbH rang up about $556.52 million last year.

"Furthermore, the international infrastructure of Cosmopolitan Cosmetics offers growth potential for Atkinsons in other regions of the world," he said.

"Being part of the Cosmopolitan network is an incredible chance to get more out of the Atkinsons business," agreed Francesco Gonella, marketing and sales manager at Atkinsons.

Until now, almost half of Atkinsons’ $35.8 million business has been generated by the I Coloniali fragrance, bath and skin care brand. Atkinsons’ portfolio also includes English Lavender and Gold Medal, among others.

The announcement of Unilever’s divestiture Friday did not surprise the financial community. Sources here have long described beauty as noncore for the Anglo-Dutch consumer products firm, which has reportedly been shopping around its remaining prestige beauty business, including Calvin Klein Cosmetics, plus the fragrance licenses of Cerruti, Karl Lagerfeld, Chloé, Valentino, Vera Wang, Nautica and BCBG Max Azria.

Unilever — whose beauty interests generated an estimated $6.39 billion last year — sold off its Elizabeth Arden brand in January 2001.

But industry sources don’t believe the Atkinsons sale necessarily portends a larger Unilever prestige beauty spinoff anytime soon, particularly given today’s unfavorable market conditions.

However, they say Atkinsons was a good buy for Wella.

"Wella is looking for more critical mass in channels like selective distribution," explained Michael Winkler, consumer goods analyst at WestLB Panmure. "The Atkinsons acquisition fits well into Wella’s strategy of looking to internationalize these products."Already, Yardley, which Wella acquired last December, is firmly entrenched in the English market, as 4711 is in Germany. "Having three brands gives additional possibilities for growth," a Wella spokesman said.

Cosmopolitan’s beauty license portfolio includes Escada, Dunhill, Gucci, Trussardi, Montblanc, Rochas, Puma, Mexx, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Gabriela Sabatini, among others.

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