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Procter & Gamble Puts Cover Girl and Max Factor on the Block

The sale of Cover Girl and Max Factor was widely discussed this week at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores annual meeting.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — The beauty industry can’t stop buzzing about the possible sale of Cover Girl and Max Factor – which could go for a total of up to $3 billion.

The topic was widely discussed this week at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores annual meeting. Those familiar with the process, which is being handled by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said Procter & Gamble hopes to fetch at least $2.2 billion and possibly as much as $3 billion for the two brands as a bundle. The color cosmetics brands generate an estimated $350 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization profits.

Although Revlon and Coty were floated as possible suitors, attendees expressed concern that both companies have their own housekeeping to attend to first. A private equity group could be a solution, several sources suggested, noting the pieces could then be parceled out. Fast-growing Korean beauty firms were also mentioned as looking over the U.S. market. L’Oréal, which has been on an acquisition run, would face government hurdles, those familiar with the companies said.

Debate over the fairness of the price ranged from “typical P&G asking big sums,” to within the ballpark. “As far as fair price, it really depends on buyers and opportunities. Two point two billion sounds reasonable for a fully mature brand doing over $300 million EBITDA, especially based on the public market’s behavior today. A spin off to me is most probable,” said a leading executive at a beauty firm, who requested anonymity.

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Others noted that Cover Girl is struggling in an anemic U.S. market with little worldwide presence and a halt in innovation, while Max Factor is no longer in the U.S. One expert said Max Factor could be developed into a makeup artist line, but the cost to rebuild would be “ridiculous.” Euromonitor reported Cover Girl’s market share in the U.S. has declined to 8.7 percent from 10.8 percent over the past five years. Retailers said new launches, such as Ultrasmooth Foundation, have been slow out of the gate.

There’s no surprise P&G will exit color since they never really “got the business,” said one cosmetics supplier. P&G is also looking to shed Wella, with Henkel as the front-runner, plus its prestige fragrance unit. WWD has reported Frédéric Fekkai is interested in taking back his brand, which he sold to P&G in 2008.

With the mass market beauty business limping along, some questioned if P&G will easily find a buyer for the color cosmetics lines. That prompted a few to surmise Olay will be added to sweeten the pot as the company seeks to eliminate 60 percent of its brands.

But financial analysts and others familiar with the process dismissed that theory, noting P&G would have to be desperate to do so. A spokesman for P&G said the company does not comment on speculation.

Procter & Gamble’s beauty presence was somewhat subdued at the annual meeting, with a new fitness center at The Breakers supplanting its usual bustling beauty and grooming lounge. That area, a focal point of the meeting area, served as a haven among the hectic schedules and Florida heat where attendees could get services such as shaves for men, and makeovers and hair styling for women. This year, women were whisked to the chic Fekkai salon at the Brazilian Court a few minutes away. Men were left out — perhaps fitting with the current Lumbersexual trend. “P&G is very focused on its other businesses here. It’s all Tide and Dawn here,” said one retailer.

P&G did hold its annual dinner and entertainment on Sunday evening hosted by Carolyn Tastad, group president of North America, with a special presentation and question-and-answer period featuring Dr. Oz.

It was also revealed that Bryan Stuke, 57, vice president customer business development and credited with being one of the most recognized executives in the mass beauty business, will retire at the end of June after 35 years with Procter & Gamble.