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Shares of Wella In State of Flux Amid Sale Talks

BERLIN — Wella was back in the financial news this week.<br><br>Rumors that Wella’s majority shareholders, the Ströher family, might be reconsidering their position on the possible sale of the German hair and cosmetics company briefly...

BERLIN — Wella was back in the financial news this week.

Rumors that Wella’s majority shareholders, the Ströher family, might be reconsidering their position on the possible sale of the German hair and cosmetics company briefly boosted Wella share prices more than 5 percent Monday. On Tuesday, the stock closed down 1.4 percent in Frankfurt at $62.85 a common share. All dollar figures are calculated from the euro at current exchange rates.

Reports in the financial press suggested that the Ströher family, previously divided on the advisability of a sale, were “moving towards selling it amid signs of interest from Procter & Gamble, Unilever and L’Oréal.” A Wella spokesman responded: “We’re familiar with this speculation from the past and the present, but we do not comment on speculation.”

Last October, Wella reportedly turned down an informal $5.7 billion offer from Henkel on the grounds that it was too low. (Wella’s current market value is about $4 billion.) The company officially denied having received any offer from Henkel. At that time, sources said parties within the Ströher family were against a sale on principle.

One analyst told WWD it “could be true” that the Ströhers were having a change of heart. She suggested that Wella’s management probably didn’t receive an offer from Henkel, whereas the family may very well have. But the fact that Wella’s management stated “in October that they had not received a bid from Henkel…was a way of signalling to the market that they are open to options, including selling the company.”

However, German companies, especially family-owned ones, are extremely slow, she noted, and so this new rumor “doesn’t necessarily mean that anything will happen quickly.” Also, she pointed out that the presumed source, so-called “Branchenkreisen” or industry circles, are notoriously unreliable. “Since no one really is close to the family, many things can be made up that are not necessarily true,” she concluded.