The Clairol haircare division, currently up for auction by parent Bristol-Myers Squibb, has attracted considerable interest from arch-rivals Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

Although Clairol's annual sales fell 6% to $1.9bn in 2000, this has done nothing to dampen the ardour of its suitors. Insiders predict that bidding could reach $4 billion to $5bn despite the possibility of anti-trust intervention due to the rival duo’s dominance of the shampoo sector.

Other interested parties include Henkel and Biersdorf of Germany and Japanese toiletries giant Kao.

The disposal, along with that of BMS’ Zimmer orthopaedics unit, is intended to accelerate the group’s earnings growth to the mid-to-high teens from 2003.

News source: Financial Times