Boots spends pounds 115m on French skin-care firm

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The Independent Online
Boots Healthcare International, the over-the-counter medications arm of the chemists group, is expanding its European operations with the pounds 115m acquisition of one of France's leading skin-care product manufacturers.

BHI, whose products include Nurofen, Optrex and Strepsils, will pay cash for Laboratoires Lutsia, owned by Roussel Uclaf, a subsidiary of Hoechst, the German chemicals and pharmaceuticals group.

Lutsia's main products include Lutsine, an anti-acne cream, and Onagrine, an anti-ageing product.

With sales of Fr315m (pounds 39.4m), Lutsia's two main products are market leaders in the French market. The acquisition of the company, which employs more than 200, is part of BHI's strategy of building businesses in each large European market in its core product categories of analgesics (Nurofen), cough medicines (Strepsils) and skin-care (E45, Lutsine and Onagrine).

Boots, whose chairman is Sir Michael Angus, expects that following the deal sales in France will be about Fr460m (pounds 57.5m), almost matching its UK turnover through its British subsidiary, Crookes Healthcare. The deal is also expected to sharpen BHI's focus on its main product areas. Analgesics and skin-care products will account for more than 60 per cent of BHI sales after the deal.

Barry Clare, managing director of BHI, said: "This agreement gives BHI critical mass in France, access to products with significant potential in other major markets, and sharper focus on our core business. Together Lutsia and BHI will create a formidable business.

"Lutsia has already shown it can create a new product sector by the identification and exploitation of demand for medically effective skin- care products."

Laboratoires Lutsia has a 7 per cent market share of French skin-care products which are sold only through pharmacies. In France consumers have direct access to consultations with dermatologists, who play a much more prominent role in product recommendation than in the UK.