April 29, 2020 / 6:15 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Shuttered salons, nail bars cast pall on Coty beauty sale - sources

* Henkel, KKR hold off on bids for Coty's hair and nail brands

* Auction hits a snag as most beauty salons remain shut

* Consumers rely on self-care and at-home beauty treatments (Adds context, analyst note)

By Arno Schuetze and Pamela Barbaglia

FRANKFURT/LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - German conglomerate Henkel and U.S. buyout fund KKR are holding off bidding for a portfolio of beauty brands that Coty Inc is trying to sell as they fret over the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, four sources told Reuters.

The sale, launched by Credit Suisse earlier this year, has hit a snag as hair salons and nail bars remain shut in most countries around the world, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential.

Prospective bidders want to assess the impact of the industry shutdown on Coty's brands which include Wella, Clairol, GHD and OPI nail polish, they said.

German conglomerate Henkel is only targeting specific brands including hair specialist Wella rather than the entire portfolio but would not commit to a bid until it has more visibility on the industry downturn, the sources said.

KKR is the other bidder left in the process and was initially looking to snap up the entire unit and bet on its turnaround, they said.

But despite its expertise in reviving consumer brands - such as Unilever's spreads unit - KKR has now taken a cautious approach and wants to review Coty's portfolio at a later stage when the fallout of the pandemic will be fully reflected on the cosmetics firm's balance sheet, one of the sources said.

Coty, Henkel and KKR declined to comment.

Coty's professional beauty unit, which primarily sells professional hair and nail care products to salons, accounts for about 21% of its total revenue, with annual revenues of about $1.81 billion.

Coty was hoping to finalise the sale by the summer, but bidders have asked to update their due diligence as they couldn't rely on pre-crisis revenue estimates, the sources said.

Securing financing for the deal has also become more difficult, another source said, adding Coty would take a hit on price if it refused to grant more time to both Henkel and KKR.

The portfolio was valued at about $7 billion earlier this year, sources had said, before the novel coronavirus ravaged the market, redirecting consumers' focus towards online beauty products including home dye kits.

To avoid a fire sale, Coty's boss Pierre Laubies will need to give up on his plan to slash debt, which envisaged bringing the company's net debt to EBITDA ratio down from 5.3 times to an estimated 3 times, Wells Fargo analysts said in a note issued after Reuters first reported on the deal stalling.

SELF-CARE BOOM

The global beauty and personal care industry was valued just short of $500 billion in 2019, according to market research firm Euromonitor.

But if real global GDP growth was to drop between 4-6% due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, retail sales growth for the sector would decline between 2% and 5%, Euromonitor said.

In the first quarter of 2020, U.S. prestige beauty products generated $3.6 billion in sales, down 14% from last year, according to NPD Group. In contrast, online sales rose 24% in the same period, with hair products up 41%.

"Self-care and at-home beauty treatments are where the growth is for the beauty market at this moment as consumers have no choice but to take beauty services into their own hands," said NPD beauty industry advisor Larissa Jensen.

L'Oreal currently ranks as the world leader in salon haircare, followed by John Paul Mitchell Systems and Coty, according to Euromonitor.

Henkel, which owns Schwarzkopf, was hoping to boost its market share by securing control of Wella, the sources said, but its newly-appointed Chief Executive Carsten Knobel had to hold off amid a bleak outlook.

The German firm said on April 7 that its beauty care division would report a 3.9% sales decline in the first quarter, hurt by the closure of hair salons.

Jefferies analysts estimated that salons account for about 30% of the unit's sales and that the implied decline in that segment was about 13.5%. (Reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt and Pamela Barbaglia in London; additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis, Matthias Inverardi, Martinne Geller and Siddharth Cavale; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Kirsten Donovan)

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