BERLIN — The Beiersdorf saga could reach a conclusion this week, according to sources close to the Tchibo consortium and the maker of Nivea.

The consortium — supported by the Hamburg Senate and comprising the German coffee retail group, Tchibo family member and independent businessman Joachim Herz, an as yet unnamed bank plus Beiersdorf itself — has been in talks with Allianz over a deal for the German insurer’s 43.6 percent Beiersdorf stake. Price remains the major issue, and the German daily papers were filled with conflicting reports Tuesday on the how high the consortium might be willing to go.

Allianz is reportedly seeking $145, or 125 euros a share, a price some say Tchibo is now prepared to “lightly surpass.” Procter & Gamble, the other — though still unofficial — contender for Allianz’s stake, would have little difficulty outbidding Tchibo, analysts say.But they pointed out that such a move would make little sense if Tchibo remains a blocking minority with its 30 percent interest in Beiersdorf.

“P&G can pay a higher price but only if they get 100 percent of Beiersdorf and can fully integrate the company,” an analyst said. Another source, however, said there were “clear signs that P&G is getting ready to make a move, whatever that move might be.”

Another point of contention, at least for the German press, is the role of the Claussen family (heirs of the Beiersdorf founder), which holds 10 percent of Beiersdorf. Those shares are split between at least 12 individuals, and while the family has always been cited as a loyal Tchibo ally, reports suggest some family members may now be looking to sell to the highest bidder. There is no spokesman for the family.

There are two contradictory reports going around, a source noted. “One says the Claussens are in talks with the Tchibo consortium to buy their 10 percent on top of Allianz’s 43.6 percent, and the other is that the Claussens had a contract with Allianz giving [Allianz] the first option to buy.”

Another source said the contract with Allianz, presumably good till the end of the year, now seems to have lost its validity. “But even if the Claussens sold to another party like P&G, P&G would still be short Tchibo’s 30 percent and couldn’t integrate Beiersdorf. The Claussens aren’t that significant a factor,” he said.— Melissa Drier

Sassoon, P&G Headed to Trial

NEW YORK — Vidal Sassoon will get his day in court.

Monday a federal judge in Los Angeles found that the hair stylist’s multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Procter & Gamble will proceed to trial. A date has been set for Sept. 21, 2004.

U.S. District Court Judge Margaret M. Morrow denied P&G’s motion to dismiss the entire complaint, which accuses P&G of four main things: breach of fiduciary duty, actual fraud, constructive fraud and breach of covenant good faith. All but the actual fraud charge was dismissed.

According to court papers, P&G asserts that, at most, it is guilty of “bad judgment” in its promotion of the Sassoon brand.

Sassoon filed the lawsuit against the consumer products giant April 1, shortly after P&G discontinued the Vidal Sassoon brand in North America and Europe. The hair care brand, which Sassoon said still generates upward of $200 million in sales in Asia, suffered domestically following a product relaunch three years ago that drastically changed the brand’s image.

U.S. sales of Vidal Sassoon hair care dropped nearly 40 percent to $25.4 million in mass stores, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ended Dec. 1, 2002, against the prior-year period, according to Information Resources Inc.

In response to the trial’s proceeding, P&G said that both “P&G and Mr. Sassoon benefit from a strong Sassoon brand and there is simply no merit to the suggestion that we have intentionally undermined the brand. We are confident that the allegation will be found to be without basis once we have the opportunity to fully present our case in court.”

— Andrea Nagel

Beauty Bonus

Groupe Clarins on Thursday will issue one bonus share for every nine shares held, increasing the total amount of stock outstanding to about 28.2 million shares. This is the 14th bonus share issue by Clarins and is being made “to reward shareholders for their loyalty to the company and to improve the share’s liquidity,” the French beauty firm said in a statement. Clarins’ shares were trading up 1 percent at 53.85 euros, or $62.89 at current exchange, on the Paris Bourse at midday Tuesday.

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