Beauty companies are sitting pretty.
The owners of cosmetics, skin-care or hair-care businesses with room to grow can demand sky-high purchase prices in the current market. That’s because of investor voraciousness for the high margins and myriad expansion possibilities the categories provide. And potential buyers — both corporate and private equity companies — are willing to shell out the big bucks to take over a successful beauty business. Prices are pushed higher still because the beauty acquisition sprees of 2014 and 2015 left few sizable, growing assets in the market — and some of the remaining unattached properties simply are not looking to sell. In 2015, there were 85 beauty-related acquisitions, according to a presentation by the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management graduate students.
“There are more buyers than sellers right now in beauty, and I think there have been so many deals in the last few years that there are fewer companies actionable now than maybe a year ago,” said Vennette Ho, managing director at Financo.
“The scarcity of sizable businesses is definitely a thing,” said Kevin Murphy, managing director at private equity firm Encore Consumer Capital, which backs Lorac. “When you see a business that’s got either scale or is performing well…it’s going to come in at a high valuation even if it’s not huge.”
New players, mainly private equity groups attempting to copycat the success of beauty deals from prior years, heighten the buy-side competition.
“You have strategic buyers still looking to acquire growth…there’s a little bit of a herd mentality in private equity as well, and they see what others are doing, and so it has gotten very competitive,” said Richard Gersten, partner at Tengram Capital Partners.
“The biggest difference I draw between this market and the last bull market [in 2006 and 2007]…the market was as aggressive, but the big difference you had was strategics were buying across a broader pool of assets — they were being less picky,” said Steven Davis, managing director at Intrepid Investment Bankers. “Once they decide they want to buy something, they’ll pay a premium price.”
Those conditions — fewer good options and increased competition — are pushing corporations and financial buyers further downmarket, toward any growing company that can bring in north of $10 million in sales. And with an uptick in beauty start-ups, there are plenty of smaller businesses for them to take a look at — but few are quite ready to be plucked and grown under new ownership.
“We are in the dawn of a new era of beauty that is being led by the entrepreneur, family-led creator.…There is no dearth of supply, only of really good supply,” said Andrew Shore, managing director at Moelis & Co. “There is a scarcity of great properties, which has caused valuations to rise. They will only continue to rise, which likely means they will all sell at some point.”
Brands that are really drawing investors in, aside from growth, are also doing it through new marketing techniques. Beauty lines that stand out are “really capturing and harnessing the power of social media,” said Hadley Mullin, senior managing director at private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. “Those brands will continue to attract a lot of strategic and financial sponsor interest.”
So far in 2016, Shiseido Co. Ltd. has agreed to acquire Laura Mercier and Revive, Clayton Dubilier & Rice made a $415 million deal for High Ridge Brands, Johnson & Johnson said it would pay $3.3 billion for OGX, the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. acquired By Kilian and TA Associates agreed to recapitalize Paula’s Choice.
But beauty deal flow was heavier in 2014 and 2015. Coty Inc. agreed to buy several dozen beauty brands from Procter & Gamble (though that deal is slated to close later this year); Unilever went on a prestige skin-care spree, adding Dermalogica, Kate Somerville and Murad; Lauder picked up GlamGlow, Editions de Parfums de Frédéric Malle and Le Labo; L’Oréal added Carol’s Daughter and NYX Cosmetics; Interparfums Inc. bought Rochas; TPG Growth invested in BeautyCounter; Tengram invested in Cos Bar, and Castanea Partners invested in First Aid Beauty.
While deal flow for this year is projected by industry sources to trickle in at a slightly slower pace than prior years, there are several assets experts anticipate will be acquired within the next year.
Devacurl, which includes a hair-care product line and salons, has been growing over the past few years. The company develops different product lines for different types of curls, including the Low-Poo Delight line for waves, and the No-Poo Decadence line for tight curls. The tool lineup includes a diffuser, hair clips and towels. The business also provides haircuts and other services through its four Devachan salons in New York and California, and has about $40 million in net sales, according to industry sources. Private equity company Tengram Capital Partners took a 50 percent stake in the business in 2013, sources said.
2. Dolce & Gabbana Fragrance License
Perhaps the biggest surprise out on the M&A field is that Dolce & Gabbana is still looking for a beauty licensee after a proposed deal that Procter & Gamble Co. made with Coty Inc. didn’t pan out. “We are still working to find the final setup for the brand,” a P&G spokeswoman said without commenting on dynamics surrounding the proposition. The Dolce & Gabbana beauty license has been on the block since January. Industry sources estimate that Dolce & Gabbana’s large portfolio of fragrances combined add up to wholesale sales of over $500 million.
L’Oréal, Shiseido’s Beauté Prestige International and Puig have been mentioned by market sources as possible suitors. Shiseido is building its portfolio — recently buying Laura Mercier and Revive — and is understood to still be on the hunt for fragrance brands to make up for the loss of the Jean Paul Gaultier license. Shiseido could not be reached for comment at press time and L’Oréal and Puig each issued a “no comment.”
Industry sources note that it looks like an expensive deal, including an expensive royalty rate, seen as one of the highest in the industry, estimated as high as 10 percent. Also, there is reportedly the cost of required advertising spending and support for the color cosmetics and treatment brands. Estimated losses of those two subbrands range as high as $70 million a year, according to sources. Another issue is antitrust. A brand as big as Dolce & Gabbana could tip the scales, particularly in key markets like Germany and the U.K.
3. Hatch Beauty
Beauty incubator Hatch is responsible for identifying white space in the market and developing products to fill those gaps. The business is responsible for the Orlando Pita, Orlando Pita Play, Jenna Hipp, Kristofer Buckel, Naturewell, Bliss, Dollar Shave Club, Goldfaden MD, ESalon, Lancer, Droplet, Nailing Hollywood, Lalicious, Circle of Friends and Fisher Price makeup, skin-care and body-care products. According to sources, Hatch — which came to market roughly two years ago — has retained Piper Jaffray to look for a potential investor in order to expand.
Korres, now back in growth mode according to industry sources, is quietly weighing the possibility of a transaction. The Greek brand stands out to potential investors for its natural products, apothecary feel and technology. Korres makes skin-care, fragrance color and bath and body products that are sold online, through Sephora and on HSN.
5. Marc Anthony Hair
The mass-market hair-care brand has a slew of texture and ingredient-specific hair-care lines, including coconut oil, argan oil, aloe vera, plus a line for curls. The brand counts Amazon, Ulta Beauty and drugstore chains like Walgreen Co. and CVS among distributors. Estimated to have between $20 million and $25 million in net sales by sources, Marc Anthony has been growing.
6. Rodan + Fields
Rodan + Fields, founded by dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields (who also started Proactiv), produces four lines of skin care — Redefine, Reverse, Unblemish and Soothe — each containing multiple products to try to meet particular skin needs. The business posted a 90 percent growth rate for 2015, bringing in $627 million in sales, which is likely to pique investor interest. Sources indicated that the company had reentered the market looking for an investor at some point following its 2007 split from Lauder, but that a deal never materialized. “Rodan + Fields is proud of its visionary brand and disruptive community commerce model,” said chief brand officer Lynn Emmolo. “While it is our responsibility to explore strategic options that come our way, with continued explosive growth we remain fully focused on supporting our independent consultants’ success.”
Temptu, which gained popularity with its $195 airbrush foundation machine, has grown its lineup to include airbrush blush, bronzer, highlighters and contouring kits, in addition to non-airbrush primer and lip products. The brand also recently introduced Temptu 24-hour root touch-up and hair color, which is meant to cover gray roots or fill in eyebrows. The company’s products are sold in Bloomingdale’s, Cos Bar and Nordstrom in the U.S., as well as internationally, through U.K.-based Space NK locations. The brand is being shopped by Financo, according to sources.
8. Anastasia Beverly Hills
Anastasia Beverly Hills is the head of the beauty social media class. With more than 10 million Instagram followers, the company uses the platform to drive sales — something multiple financial sources characterized as very attractive. Tribe Dynamics estimated that the business had $46.5 million in earned media value for the second quarter of 2015, compared to MAC Cosmetics with $26.4 million or Too Faced with $17.2 million. But that value really comes from other users — not the Anastasia brand — who post about the products. The company is also expanding into new products, with liquid lipstick, highlighters, liners and contouring palettes joining the ranks of the coveted brow sets. And it’s now in 2,500 doors globally, including Nordstrom, Sephora, Dillard’s and Macy’s locations. Industry sources estimated the brand’s sales at between $125 million and $150 million. And while the brow-turned-makeup business is perhaps the most coveted among the investor community, founder Anastasia Soare insists she has no interest in selling, saying at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit in May: “I don’t have any investment, and I’m not planning to get any [any] time soon.”
The makeup and skin-care brand of makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury seems to appeal almost universally to the investment community and has already rejected buyout offers, industry sources said, instead opting to raise money from friends and family-type investors. Tilbury’s built up distribution in the U.K. already, in places like Selfridges and Fenwick, and is also selling in Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman and Net-a-porter. The brand is mum on sales figures, but industry sources estimate it could reach up to $75 million in sales for the year.
While Charlotte Tilbury is a huge hit in the U.K., there is still plenty of white space of U.S. and international expansion, sources said, making it an attractive target. The brand declined to comment on the idea of adopting a larger investor or a sale, but industry sources said when this company does sell, they expect it to be to a strategic buyer — such as Estée Lauder.
10. Josie Maran
With an estimated $125 million in sales for 2015, Josie Maran’s namesake beauty company’s size and infrastructure is one of the things that makes it most attractive to the investor community, sources said. The brand makes a line of argan oil-based products that range from packaged argan oil to foundations to lip and cheek stains. Josie Maran also produces hair and body-care products, and has previously said growth for the brand will come from “refreshing” existing products with new colors or smells. The brand is sold online, through Sephora and QVC.