Deals

Nestle trims L'Oreal stake with $10 billion sale

3 minute read

A Nestle logo is pictured at Vers-chez-les-Blanc in Lausanne, Switzerland August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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PARIS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Nestle SA (NESN.S) said on Tuesday it would cut its stake in L'Oreal (OREP.PA) to about 20% by selling shares worth 8.9 billion euros ($10 billion) back to the French cosmetics brand, moving to reduce the weight of the beauty giant on its books for the first time in 7 years.

The Nescafe maker's holding in the beauty giant has been subject of intense scrutiny over the years, and the Swiss company has maintained its interest was both financial and strategic, even when activist investor Third Point urged disposal in mid 2017. Since then, L'Oreal shares have more than doubled.

Seeking to reduce the weight of its L'Oreal holding while maintaining a level above 20%, allowing it to consolidate the investment on accounts, Nestle approached L'Oreal two months ago, kicking off a flurry of negotiations that involved chairmen of both companies, according to a source with knowledge of negotiations.

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Following the deal, Nestle said it would own 20.1% of L'Oreal, down from 23.3% previously. L'Oreal, meanwhile, would buy back shares representing 4% of its capital and cancel them at the latest on Aug. 29.

L'Oreal, which is paying 400 euros per share, said the deal will have an accretive effect on the company's earnings per share of more than 4% in a full year. The beauty company is paying with cash and debt.

As a result of the transaction, which is expected to close in the coming days, the Bettencourt Meyers family, will see their stake rise to 34.7% from 33.3%, but will not be required to launch a takeover offer, as normally required for passing ownership thresholds above one-third of the capital.

L'Oréal stock ended Tuesday up 3.96% at 424.8 euros while Nestle gained 0.1% to 121.9 Swiss francs.

The packaged foods maker also said its board had decided to buy back 20 billion Swiss francs ($21.6 billion) worth of its shares between 2022 and 2024, adding that it would adjust this program should it make sizable acquisitions.

Nestle said it would terminate its current share repurchase plan by the end of the year, having bought back shares for 12.7 billion Swiss francs or almost two-thirds of the program volume.

L'Oreal around four years ago underscored its readiness to buy Nestle's 23% stake if the Swiss shareholder was to sell it.

Nestle in October 2019 closed the sale of its skin health business for 10.2 billion Swiss francs, as the group moved to ditch underperforming businesses.

In 2014, Nestle reduced its holding from 31%.

Centerview acted as lead adviser to L'Oreal for the transaction announced Tuesday.

($1 = 0.8876 euros)

($1 = 0.9246 Swiss francs)

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Additional reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M. And Cynthia Osterman

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