L'Oréal Ogles Body Shop's Global Retail Network

27 February 2006

Tennessee Williams would have loved it! A macho yet frustrated alpha male and a faded belle able to satisfy the latter's sole unfulfilled desire.

In the part immortalized by Brando is Paris-headquartered cosmetics colossus L'Oréal; and in the role enshrined forever in moviegoing memory by Vivien Leigh, is UK-based global retail chain The Body Shop.

Late last week the former formally notified the London Stock exchange that it is "continually evaluating a wide range of strategic alternatives [among which is] a possible offer for Body Shop."

Responded the latter with much fluttering of eyelashes: "The Body Shop has not received any proposal from L'Oreal. The board remains confident about the future prospects for the Group and its ability to deliver significant value for its shareholders."

On Wednesday Body Shop shares leapt 11% on rumors of a bid - and by another 7.3% Thursday after L'Oréal lodged its statement with the LSE.

A successful bid would have to top the retail chain's current market valuation of £570.6 million ($995.6m; €837.9m) - an option clearly not ruled out

Body Shop would bring around 2,000 worldwide retail outlets to L'Oréal's party, many of them in the latter's core US market. Moreover, the French company is battling to restore revenue growth momentum which in 2005 neared stall speed.

Body Shop too is a business in need of revitalization and recently lowered its profit forecast for 2006. A child of its time the chain was founded in 1976 from a single store in Brighton, England and specialized in environmentally and ethically-friendly products, reaching its peak in the mid-1980s.

Following a string of financial setbacks through the 90s, espoused founder-co-chairmen Anita and Gordon Roddick took a back seat in the running of the business. They remain on the company's board as essential icons, although with non-executive status.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff