TEL AVIV — L’Oreal SA of Paris has paid about $7.5 million for a 30 percent equity interest in Interbeauty, Israel’s largest cosmetics marketing organization and principal distributor of L’Oreal’s products here.
The acquisition makes L’Oreal Interbeauty’s largest shareholder. The company’s 1994 volume is projected at $28.3 million (85 million shekels) at current exchange rates, compared with 54 million shekels last year.
Jean-Pierre Valeriola, a L’Oreal vice president, said, “This is the first step in establishing L’Oreal’s direct presence in Israel.”
He added that L’Oreal is looking into additional projects in Israel, including joint research into dermatology and cosmetics. L’Oreal spends more than $200 million a year on cosmetics research.
The company said L’Oreal’s Israeli business has shown strong growth over the years. Moreover, L’Oreal said the Middle East is poised for long-term growth.
However, the move has reignited a nasty dispute with Jean and David Frydman, who previously sued L’Oreal in Paris, then pressed charges against its U.S. licensee, Cosmair Inc., in New York.
Among other charges, the Frydmans claim that L’Oreal closed a Helena Rubinstein plant in Israel to curry favor with the Arab League, which had boycotted L’Oreal’s products from early 1988 to July 1989 because the French company had bought Rubinstein. L’Oreal contends that the plant was one of many facilities closed for economic reasons.
The Frydmans now have dismissed the Interbeauty investment as “a public relations game.” They described the deal as “a maneuver by L’Oreal to avoid doing what the Israeli government has demanded: public apologies by L’Oreal to Israel.”