The world's largest cosmetics group , L'Oréal has confirmed it is to buy ethical beauty product retailer The Body Shop in a €940 million ($1.14bn; £652m) deal [WAMN: 27-Feb-06].

The Paris-headquartered giant, whose brands include Garnier and Lancôme, says it plans to operate Body Shop, based in the UK, as a separate company. Founder Anita Roddick is to retain her current consultancy role, warmed by the £130m cheque in her organic cotton pocket.

Comments L'Oréal's British chairman Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones: "We have always had great respect for The Body Shop's success and for the strong identity and values created by its outstanding founder. A partnership between our companies makes perfect sense."

Adds analyst Nick Bubb: "Body Shop isn't the wacky ethical business it once was and it has been going upmarket in recent years ... so the approach from L'Oréal wasn't that big a surprise."

Body Shop, which opened its first store in Britain thirty years ago, made its name and reputation by rejecting animal testing and selling natural products in recycled packaging.

The company now has more than 2,000 stores in 53 countries but faced financial setbacks in the 1990s and recently lowered its profit forecast following disappointing UK and US sales during the 2005 holiday period.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff