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P&G, Billie Cancel Deal After FTC Suit

The Edgewell-Harry's deal was also called off after an FTC complaint.

Procter & Gamble’s acquisition of women’s shaving and personal-care brand Billie has been canceled.

The move comes after the Federal Trade Commission filed a suit to block the acquisition in December, saying that the deal would “eliminate growing competition that benefits consumers.”

Earlier in 2020, the FTC sued to block Edgewell Personal Care’s proposed $1.37 billion acquisition of Harry’s for similar reasons. That deal was also pulled.

P&G and Billie issued a joint statement that said: “We were disappointed by the FTC’s decision and maintain there was exciting potential in combining Billie with P&G to better serve more consumers around the world. However, after due consideration, we have mutually agreed that it is in both companies’ best interests not to engage in a prolonged legal challenge, but instead to terminate our agreement and refocus our resources on other business priorities.”

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Over the past several years, the P&G grooming segment has taken a hit as newcomers like Dollar Shave Club, now owned by Unilever, and Harry’s gained market share. P&G’s grooming segment has shrunk by about $1.3 billion since fiscal 2015, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show.

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Start-ups, including Dollar Shave and Harry’s, as well as Bevel, which P&G bought in 2018, thought through products, pricing and marketing differently for men’s products.

For women, those shifts took longer, and didn’t show up until Billie’s 2017 launch. The brand makes affordable razors and personal-care products with an aim to eliminate the “pink tax” — an upcharge women have traditionally had to pay for personal-care products.

Billie was also the first brand to show women shaving leg, armpit or pubic hair in marketing materials, breaking with traditional advertising that historically showed models shaving already-bare legs. After Billie, Harry’s launched Flamingo, a women’s personal-care line with razors, at-home wax kits and other products that has a similar Millennial and Gen Z reach.

“Billie saw an opportunity to challenge P&G’s position as the market leader by finding underserved, price- and quality-conscious customers, and building an innovative brand,” said Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in December. “As its sales grew, Billie was likely to expand into brick-and-mortar stores, posing a serious threat to P&G. If P&G can snuff out Billie’s rapid competitive growth, consumers will likely face higher prices.”

Billie’s starter kit starts at $9, with four blade refills available via subscription, also for $9. P&G’s Venus direct-to-consumer program now starts at $7, with four blade refills available via subscription for $18.

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