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L'Oreal is without a doubt the world's biggest, as well as its best-known, beauty company. It has a commanding position in every sector in which it is active, and enjoys a broad reputation as an aspirational brand among mass-market consumers. The group has a leading 16% share of the global beauty market. In Europe, its overall share is estimated at almost 23%, and at 18% in North America. It has built that position with a firm commitment to scientific research and development which underpins its entire portfolio, and which it is careful to publicise. Its core L'Oreal Paris brand operates across four segments of cosmetics, haircare, hair colour and skincare, and is supported by a portfolio containing many of the world's biggest hair and beauty products, including such brands as Garnier, Maybelline and Lancome. Its fragrance portfolio too is second to none: in addition to owned brands it operates perfumes and cosmetics under license for Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, YSL, Valentino and Diesel, among many others. It took over the license for Prada cosmetics at the beginning of 2021. L'Oreal's Professional Products division is the world's #1 marketer of professional haircare products, sold to or through a vast network of around 500,000 salons worldwide. Brands include Redken, Matrix and Kerastase, and the division also operates more than 100 L'Oreal Professional training academies. The group also owns a collection of premium "active cosmetics" and dermatology products sold through specialist outlets; among them Vichy, La Roche-Posay, Skinceuticals and CeraVe. Since the 1980s the group has made North America a particular focus of attention, wrong-footing domestic rivals with dynamic marketing and a series of smart launches and clever acquisitions. Among the more recent of these were the purchase of the YSL Beauté portfolio in 2008, Essie in 2011 and Urban Decay a year later. More recently the group has pushed aggressively into ecommerce and so-called beauty tech, acquiring digital developer ModiFace, whose software allows customers to "try out" different makeup looks virtually through a smartphone app. By mid-2020, L'Oreal claimed to generate no less than a quarter of group revenues from ecommerce sales, either through its own websites or from retail partners. One of L'Oreal's few missteps was arguably the acquisition of "natural beauty" retailer The Body Shop. Bought in 2006, it never really fitted in with the rest of the portfolio and was eventually sold in 2017 to Natura of Brazil. After a dip in performance in 2020, group revenues topped €30bn for the first time in 2021, at €32.3bn, while net profit too hit a new high of €4.6bn. Also for the first time that year, the luxury division was the group's biggest at just over 38% of sales (compared to just under 38% for mass consumer products). Jean-Paul Agon stepped down as CEO in May 2021 in favour of Nicolas Hieronimus. Though publicly quoted, L'Oreal's controlling shareholder is Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, grand-daughter of its founder Eugene Schueller and now the world's richest woman. She and her family have around a third of equity. Food giant Nestlé is the next biggest shareholder with 20%.
Capsule checked 15th January 2021
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Marketer Moves 16th Dec 2021: New media director TBC at L'Oreal Germany. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 8th Dec 2021: Nestlé reduced its historical investment shareholding in L'Oreal from over 23% to 20.1%. It sold the shares back to L'Oreal for a combined total of €8.9bn, having originally acquired the shares in 1974 for the equivalent of less than €300m. However it will avoid a huge tax bill on the gain, because the French group is cancelling the reacquired shares, in a move that will slightly increase the percentage of equity held by the Bettencourt family. Nestlé, meanwhile, will use the funds to buy back 20m of its own shares from public markets.
Marketer Moves 26th April 2021: New global chief digital officer at L'Oreal. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 18th Jan 2021: "Paradise". L'Oreal Paris tries something new in this CGI-enriched campaign from McCann Paris (and director Bruno Aveillan). We've become used to reasonably straight-forward celebrity to-camera endorsements for L'Oreal's flagship cosmetics brand but this new spot opts for a lavishly fantastical approach as angel ambassadors Elle Fanning and the Cuban-American singer Camila Cabello bungee-jump for beauty over Paris. It certainly grabs the attention.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Jul 2019: Clarins is in exclusive negotiations to sell its Mugler and Azzaro fragrance brands - with sales of around €400m - to L'Oreal. If completed, the deal will allow Clarins to focus exclusively on its eponymous beauty brand. It's unclear what will happen to the associated Mugler and Azzaro fashion businesses. [Updated: The deal was agreed in Oct 2019, and completed in April 2020. No price has been disclosed.]
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Feb 2019: L'Oreal claimed its best sales growth for more than a decade, with organic sales up over 7% in 2018, excluding M&A and exchange rates. The reported figure was €26.9bn. Strongest growth came from ecommerce, where sales soared by almost 41%, and in travel retail, up 27%. Asia Pacific accounted for 27% of revenues, narrowly overtaking North America for the first time. However, Western Europe is still L'Oreal's biggest market. In product divisions, luxury continues to outperform other lines, with an organic increase of over 14% for the year. advertising & promotional expenditure rose 6% in the year to €8.1bn, or $9.6bn at average exchange rates. That could confirm L'Oreal as the world's single biggest advertiser last year. Net income was up 9% to €3.9bn.
Adbrands Weekly Update 31st May 2018: L'Oreal signed off on two new deals this week. It acquired US professional hair colour brand Pulp Riot, best known for bright, bold hues - its top seller is purple - for an undisclosed sum. Sales are around $11m annually. It also agreed to take over the Valentino fragrance license to its portfolio from January 2019. That brand is currently marketed by Puig, who in turn acquired it from P&G. The new purchases follow a deal for South Korean cosmetics and fashion company Stylenanda earlier this month.
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