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Blackstone nears deal to take L’Occitane private, Bloomberg News reports

By Kane Wu

(Reuters) -Blackstone Inc is closing in on a deal to take Hong Kong-listed skincare company L’Occitane International SA private, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The $5.55-billion French cosmetics company halted trading in its Hong Kong shares earlier in the day ahead of a likely announcement spelling out details on any takeover plans.

The U.S. private equity giant may join hands with L’Occitane’s billionaire owner Reinold Geiger, according to the report.

Blackstone (NYSE:) has been exploring a deal with L’Occitane, but the structure of the deal is not immediately clear, a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, requesting anonymity as the information was private.

Blackstone declined to comment, while L’Occitane could not be immediately reached.

Austrian billionaire Geiger, the controlling shareholder of L’Occitane, had decided against a deal to take the company private last September, triggering a drag in the shares.

The buyout offer came from Geiger’s investment holding company, L’Occitane Groupe SA, when Hong Kong emerged as an epicentre of buyout deals and several firms from the West were looking to boost exposure in the rapidly growing Chinese market.

L’Occitane listed in Hong Kong in 2010, and was one of the first western companies to sell its primary shares in the Asian financial hub at the time.

Bloomberg reported in February that Blackstone was considering a bid for L’Occitane, sending the French firm’s shares surging to their highest levels in two years.

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