Kao Group is the Japanese equivalent of Procter & Gamble or Unilever: a giant conglomerate marketing a huge variety of products ranging from washing powder to sanitary napkins, and from beauty products to cooking oil. The group operates across five separate sectors, of which the two biggest are fabric & home care and skin & hair care. Kao is Japan's #1 detergent manufacturer with key laundry brand Attack and Flair fabric softener. Other lead brands include Cucute dish detergent and Magiclean household cleaning products. General skin and hair care brands include Bioré cleansers and Essential, Merit and Rerise hair products, and ion Japan the group markets Nivea skinacre in a joint venture with Beiersdorf. The group's own cosmetics brands include Est, Sofina and Curél skincare and makeup brands Suqqu and Kate. The acquisition of Kanebo Cosmetics at the end of 2005 made Kao Japan's #2 beauty company behind Shiseido. Among other brands, Kanebo's Sensai is one of Asia's leading premium anti-aging brands. Human Health Care is the umbrella for a collection of sanitary products and functional food products. Merries is Japan's top-selling disposable diaper brand, supported by Laurier feminine sanitary products and Freeday and Relief adult incontinence pads. Healthya is a range of fat-reducing nutrional drinks and oils. Finally the group has a specialised chemicals division. Committed to a global approach to business, Kao has operations in 27 countries in Asia, North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. However, while Kao is unquestionably one the leading manufacturers of household and personal care products in Asia, it has found it much harder to break into Western markets, despite occasional successes, such as its Bioré skin cleanser range, and acquisitions such as Jergens and Molton Brown skincare, Ban deodorants and John Frieda haircare. It has said that it wants to acquire additional brands and businesses in Western markets, but there are comparatively few significant opportunities. Michitaka Sawada is CEO. Group revenues were approx $13.8bn in 2019, with two-thirds of sales originating in Japan and much of the rest in other Asian markets. The Americas and Europe together accounted for less than 17% of revenues. Net income was approx $1.4bn.
Capsule checked 2nd March 2020
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Who are the competitors of Kao? Kao's main competitor in Japan, as well as other markets is Procter & Gamble. Other competitors include Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and others. Japanese rivals include Shiseido and Kose (in cosmetics), Lion Corporation (household and oral care), Unicharm (in diapers, sanitary and household products), and Tsumura (skincare). See Household Care and Personal Care for other companies
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Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Dec 2017: Japanese giant Kao added to its small but significant portfolio of Western brands with the acquisition of luxury haircare brand Oribe. Terms were not disclosed but the price tag was estimated at between $400m-$430m, equivalent to a little over four times revenues. Kao's other Western-based brands include John Frieda, Jergens and Molton Brown.
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