HONG KONG — The eyes of beauty investors seem to be focused on South Korea.
L Capital Asia is about to take a minority stake in South Korean beauty company Clio Cosmetics by investing around $50 million, according to a source close to the transaction. L Capital Asia believes in the international growth prospects of the company and wants to tap into the fast-growing demand for Korean beauty products, this person said.
At the same time, Bain Capital Private Equity and Goldman Sachs acquired a majority stake of Carver Korea, which sells about 1,000 different cosmetics products in Korea, China and the U.S. The company’s founder, Lee Sang-rok, will maintain a minority position in the business. The new investors plan to grow Carver domestically and ramp up overseas expansion. The deal is Bain Capital Private Equity’s first-ever investment in Korea.
The Clio Cosmetics deal would be the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton-backed fund’s second acquisition in Korea. In 2014, L Capital bought a stake in YG Entertainment Inc., the South Korean management agency of rapper Psy, famed for his 2012 megahit “Gangnam Style.”
The latest deals underscore interest of foreign investors in Korean beauty brands. Back in 2015, The Estée Lauder Cos. bought an interest in Have & Be Co. Ltd., the Seoul-based parent company of skin-care brands Dr. Jart+ and Do the Right Thing.
Clio’s main brand, Clio Professional, has a profile similar to that of Make Up Forever; it was founded by makeup artists in 1993 and it offers a large product range of color cosmetics. Kill Cover, a foundation packaged in a sponge, is one of its key products. The brand sells mainly in South Korea and Mainland China. The company also has a cosmetics brand targeting younger consumers called Peripera and a skincare brand called Goodal.
Carver’s flagship skin-care line Aesthetic Hydration Cosmetics (A.H.C.) is promoted by Korean celebrities. The company also owns beauty brands Shara and Vivito. Carver had the equivalent of $130 million in sales for 2015, with year-over-year sales growth of about 200 percent.
Korean cosmetics are experiencing a major upward trajectory, with particularly explosive growth seen in China. According to the Korea International Trade Association, the average revenue of Korean cosmetics exports to China has grown at a compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent.
It’s a dynamic that is significantly transforming the midtier section of one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. Suh Kyung-Bae, chairman and chief executive officer of Korean beauty giant AmorePacific, has global ambitions for his company.
As reported in March, Los Angeles-based consultancy Landing International and Korean e-commerce player SkinRX have launched an online marketplace to connect American retailers with emerging Korean beauty brands. It features brands like Cosrx, Thank You Farmer, Vant 36.5, Acwell, MadeCera and Sevendrops.