L'Oreal billionaire says Nestle no threat -paper

Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:36am EDT

* Bettencourt says grp not opposed to L'Oreal independence

* Adds she does not want to leave L'Oreal, change structure

PARIS, April 20 (Reuters) - Billionaire Liliane Bettencourt, the largest shareholder in L'Oreal (OREP.PA), told French daily Le Figaro that Switzerland's Nestle (NESN.VX) was not hostile to the cosmetics group's interests or its independence.

Nestle, which holds 30 percent of L'Oreal, has said it will decide on the future of its stake in the cosmetics group in 2014 when a 10-year standstill agreement draws to an end. [ID:nLDE73D1KL]

"I don't think Nestle has a stance that is opposed to the interests or independence of L'Oreal," Bettencourt told Le Figaro.

The family of Bettencourt, France's richest woman, owns about 31 percent of L'Oreal. There has been recurring speculation Bettencourt might eventually sell to Nestle, which she downplayed in the interview. [ID:nLDE67P1XB]

"I want to underline the independence of L'Oreal," she said. "L'Oreal needs a strong structure. I have always been opposed to leaving L'Oreal." (Reporting by Lionel Laurent; Editing by Will Waterman)