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Report: Nestlé shortlists L'Oreal, Unilever, PE firms for skin health unit sale

Nestlé SA selected a number of private equity firms and consumer goods companies to join the second auction round for its skin health business, a deal that could fetch up to $10 billion, Bloomberg News reported March 12, citing people familiar with the matter.

French cosmetics giant L'Oréal SA and fast-moving consumer goods giant Unilever NV reportedly made it to the next round of bidding, alongside a consortium that includes Advent International Corp., Cinven Ltd. and GIC Pte. Ltd., as well as KKR & Co. and EQT Partners AB.

Nestlé started exploring strategic options for its skin health division — which includes the Cetaphil and Proactiv brands of consumer care products and the Epiduo and Soolantra prescription brands — in September 2018. The company said at the time it plans to place more focus on its core food, beverage and nutritional health products.

According to a report by Reuters in January, apart from those still participating in the sale, Nestlé Skin Health attracted interest from a number of investors, including Blackstone Group LP, Carlyle Group LP, CVC Capital Partners Ltd. and Partners Group Holding AG. The report also listed Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Inc., Beiersdorf AG, Allergan PLC and Germany-based Merz Pharma as previous potential buyers.

If the Swiss consumer goods giant raises between $8 billion and $10 billion from Nestlé Skin Health's sale, the deal would be the largest transaction in Europe so far in 2019, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. The sale will surpass Hellman & Friedman LLC and Blackstone Group LP's takeover of German digital real estate and automotive marketplace Scout24 AG for approximately €5.7 billion, or about $6.49 billion.

Sources reportedly said no final decisions have been made, and the companies invited to the next bidding round may decide against participating.

Bloomberg said representatives for Nestle, L'Oreal, Unilever and the private equity firms declined to comment, while a representative for Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, GIC, could not immediately be reached for comment.

In July 2018, activist investor Dan Loeb, through his hedge fund Third Point LLC, called on the company to sell its stake in L'Oreal as Nestlé's board remained unable to justify the continued ownership in the long term. Loeb also urged the company to break itself up into three segments organized around beverages, nutrition and grocery.