Potential buyers are emerging in the $1bn (£850m) sale of ethical beauty brand The Body Shop.
Apax Partners, a high-profile backer of companies including Karl Lagerfeld and Orange, has registered its interest, The Sunday Times reported yesterday.
Current owner L’Oréal put the iconic British store up for sale last week, saying it wanted to “give it the best opportunities and full ability to continue its development.” This decision followed a steady decline in profits since 2012.
Other potential bidders reportedly include Advent International, a buyout investor which has previously snapped up companies such as DFS, and Holland & Barrett owner Carlyle Group.
Lush is also understood to have been sounded out as a possible new owner but is unlikely to make a bid.
L’Oréal bought The Body Shop in 2006 for £652m from original founder Dame Anita Roddick and her husband Gordon.
The number of shops has grown by 1,000 in the past ten years, but L’Oréal CEO Jean-Paul Agon had initially planned an expansion that was three times bigger.
Founded in Brighton, the chain now has stores in 66 countries, but total sales in 2016 €920.8m (£783.8m), down from €967.2m in 2015.
L’Oréal blamed adverse trading conditions in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong for recent poor performance.
But observers have suggested that the company’s ethical message has lost its lustre.
The Body Shop faces competition from other ethically-focused brands like Neal’s Yard and Lush, while fewer cosmetics brands test on animals now than when Roddick established her first shop in 1976.
Commenting in City A.M. on Friday, Peter Hubbard, senior partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, said that it was vital for The Body Shop to return to its mission-led values in order to combat declining sales: “It is possible that a sale could be exactly the opportunity The Body Shop needs to realign itself with its core values.”
Apax Partners declined to comment.