BERLIN — The Beiersdorf Group celebrated its 125th anniversary last week and reported more detailed news of another record-breaking year at its annual consumer brands press conference here.

The Hamburg-based company was founded on March 28, 1882, the date of pharmacist Paul C. Beiersdorf's patent for the manufacturer of medical plasters. Since then, the company has grown into a worldwide giant now focusing on skin and beauty care, remarked Peter Nota, the Beiersdorf board member in charge of the consumer division.

In 2006, Beiersdorf's Group sales broke the 5 billion euro barrier, rising 7.2 percent to reach 5.12 billion euros, or $6.43 billion at average exchange. Sales of its leading Nivea brand exceeded 3 billion euros for the first time, hitting 3.1 billion, or $3.89 billion, a nominal gain of 8.6 percent.

Sales of the consumer division, which includes body and facial care under the Nivea, Labello, Florena, Juvena, La Prairie, Eucerin and other brands, as well as Curad and Curitas plasters, rose 7.2 percent on a currency-adjusted basis to 4.33 billion euros, or $5.44 billion. The division's earnings before interest and taxes rose 11.5 percent to 524 million euros, or $658.3 million.

Beiersdorf's other "brand champions" — Eucerin and La Prairie — achieved the strongest growth in 2006. Eucerin, which outside the U.S. is primarily distributed in apothecaries, saw currency-adjusted sales increase by more than 10 percent, and La Prairie more than 15 percent.

Nota said three key launches last year — Nivea Visage DNAge, Eucerin Hyaluron Filler and Nivea Hair's Brilliant Blonde — illustrated the company's new strategy of being "more focused, bigger, better and faster," and helped power stronger sales and earnings. The antiaging line DNAge, which was launched last September, quickly reached the number-one skin care slot in Germany with its day cream. In fact, all three products in the range placed in the top 10 skin care slots.

Similarly, Eucerin Hyaluron Filler "won us points in market share," Nota said, as did the Nivea hair care innovations. This year will see the further expansion of Nivea DNAge with Zone Action targeting wrinkles around the nose and eyes, he said. Other important introductions in 2007 will include the global rollout of La Prairie's Pure Gold serum and Nivea Hair Brilliant Brown shampoo.Regionally, Nota said Beiersdorf is targeting China, Russia, Brazil and India, in that order, as its major growth markets. In 2006, sales in Russia were up 20 percent, China 45 percent and, together, so-called BRIC sales (for Brazil, Russia, India, China) recorded overall growth of 25.3 percent.

German consumer sales were up 2 percent, whereas sales in Western Europe grew 6.8 percent, with particularly strong performance in the U.K. and Ireland (up 10.4 percent) and the Nordic Group (up 9.8 percent). Eastern European sales rose 18.8 percent; Africa, Australia and Asia was up 12.4 percent and Latin America grew by 15.3 percent.

Nota said Beiersdorf's U.S. business has achieved "a clear turnaround. We had negative numbers in the first half of the year, but the second half came on strong." America has long been a sore topic, he acknowledged, but the new concentration on the Nivea Body, Nivea for Men and Eucerin Body ranges has shown improvement.

Nota remains optimistic about 2007, and forecasts consumer sales growth of between 7 and 8 percent for the year ahead.

He added that Beiersdorf is well on its way to achieving a 5.5 percent global market share in skin and beauty care by 2010. On the basis of market research surveys of 54 countries, Nivea now holds 131 number-one market positions, up from 125 in 2005. -- Melissa Drier

Selective to Distribute Ferragamo Scents

PARIS — Selective Beauty will start distributing Ferragamo Parfums' products (which include Ferragamo and Emanuel Ungaro scents) in the U.S. starting May 1. Ferragamo and Gary Farn, its former U.S. distributor, will jointly end their agreement on April 30. "Now the time has come to make a change for further and more aggressive development plans to strongly increase our retail presence in this key market," said Ferragamo Parfums managing director Luciano Bertinelli in a statement. Selective Beauty already distributes Ferragamo Parfums in some European countries, including France. "Selective Beauty is thrilled to continue to grow with Ferragamo Parfums and expand into the U.S.," said Corrado Brondi, president of Selective Beauty SA in the statement.Another Suitor for Boots?

LONDON — Another suitor may be preparing to try Alliance Boots on for size.

Press reports suggest Stuttgart, Germany-based Celesio, which runs pharmacy retailing and wholesaling businesses, is meeting with private equity groups with an eye to making a bid for Alliance Boots. A Celesio spokesman declined comment.

As reported, Alliance Boots said last week it has agreed to open its books to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Stefano Pessina after the consortium increased its potential takeover offer to 10.40 pence per share, or $20.47 at current exchange. If a deal were to go ahead it would value Alliance Boots at 10.1 billion pounds, or $19.88 billion.

Analysts have suggested it would be difficult for another suitor to muscle in with a takeover deal since Pessina, Alliance Boots' executive deputy chairman and a 15 percent shareholder, has strong ties with the firm's wholesaling business.

Private equity firms including Terra Firma and Blackstone have also been cited as potential suitors in the press. Spokesmen for both firms declined comment.

Celesio runs over 2,000 pharmacies in Europe, including the Lloydspharmacy chain in the U.K. Alliance Boots owns health and beauty retailer Boots the Chemists.

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