As L'Oréal readies to accept the final bids for its ailing cosmetics chain The Body Shop, one bidder has made a late attempt to sweeten its offer by calling on Jack Ma, founder of online marketplace Alibaba.
Investindustrial, the Italy-based private equity firm which counts household names such as Aston Martin and Ducati under its previous investments, revealed it was in the running for The Body Shop last month.
According to sources, the firm – led by Andrea Bonomi – has now invited Jack Ma's investment group Blue Pool Capital to join its bid as the 7 June deadline approaches.
Investindustrial was not available for comment.
The €800m (£700.19m) minimum price tag which L'Oréal has set for The Body Shop would be a hefty sum for Investindustrial, which is currently investing a €2bn fund, to commit alone.
A partnership would also help individual firms to spread any risk, as eyebrows have been raised over the company's valuation.
Its sales dropped by 4.8 per cent last year, compared to L'Oréal's overall growth of 2.3 per cent.
L'Oréal's adviser, Lazard, was forced to lower its expectations after reportedly hoping for a valuation nearer €1bn.
Despite the concerns, a number of other private equity giants showed initial interest in the lacklustre retail chain – with CVC Capital and Brazil's GP Investments still in contention.
CVC is also in the running for Spanish perfume manufacturer Iberchem, which has manufactured some of The Body Shop's popular fragrances including 80s teenage favourite White Musk.
Yet some of the parties which had sniffed around the sale have recoiled. Advent International has dropped out of the bidding process, as has BC Partners. Bain Capital were unavailable for comment on their involvement.
Founded in 1976 by activist Dame Anita Roddick, The Body Shop once relied on its no-compromise stance to animal testing and naturally sourced products to draw customers through the door.
But as other high street cosmetics brands have caught up, The Body Shop has lost some of its once-unique identity – reflected in its struggling performance.
A sale at €800m would give L’Oréal little to write home about, as it originally bought The Body Shop in 2006 for the slightly smaller sum of £652m.