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Unilever sells US hair brands to Lornamead

By Simon Pitman , 02-May-2006

Unilever has sold two of its North American hair care brands to UK-based Lornamead Acquisition, an international manufacturer and marketer of personal care products.

The deal represents the UK company's first move into the US market and will see it become the owner of the Finesse and Aqua Net brands worldwide, with the exception of the Aqua Net brand in Mexico.

The company already sells a number of its European-based brands in the US at major retail outlets, but is hoping that this opportunity will strengthen its position in that market. Besides hair care the company also has a number of other personal care brands including Lypsil and CD skin care.

Although the financial terms for the deal were not revealed, the two brands generated combined sales of $85m during the course of 2005, invariably putting the asking price in excess of that figure.

Lornamead has been gradually developing a portfolio of hair care products in the European market, having acquired several brands from Proctor & Gamble back in June 2005, together with the license to distribute Wella hair brands in Ireland back in April 2004.

The company has developed its name in the business by buying up 'heritage' brands. Often these are well-known, established brands that have been swamped by the ultra-competitive state of the market and aggressive marketing techniques.

In September last year the company bought up the Yardley brand from Proctor and Gamble. The purchase of this major British toiletries brand represents the company's biggest acquisition to date and gives it a good platform in the global toiletries market.

Stating that the Finesse and Aqua Net brands were well established in North America Mike Jatania, chief executive of Lornamead said: " We believe there is a significant opportunity to revitalise and further strengthen brand distribution as well as potentially introduce new products and widen the customer base."

Finesse was launched in 1982 as an oil-free conditioner and now offers a full range of hair care products. Unilever acquired it in 1996 through its acquisition of Helene Curtis.

Aqua Net has been around since the 1950s and is a leading range of hairsprays and styling gels in both the US and Mexican markets. Unilever acquired Aqua Net as part of its acquisition of Chesebrough-Ponds in 1988.

According to Lornamead, the acquisition of the two brands represents an opportunity to get into the North American daily hair care sector, which in 2004 was valued at $6.7bn and has had annual growth of 4 per cent over the past five years.

" We expect this [growth] to continue given factors including increased demand for colour care products, partly as a result of the aging population growth, and additional usage of male grooming products by men," said Jatania.

"Lornamead continues to seek acquisition opportunities in the personal care market and is seeing some exciting prospects as the market consolidates and the larger players are disposing of well known assets that are no longer core to their strategy," he added.

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