Cussons buys St Tropez

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The Independent Online

PZ Cussons, which owns brands including Imperial Leather soap, is to bring a touch of the French Riviera to its Manchester home, with the acquisition of the fake tanning group St Tropez Holdings.

The consumer products group, which traces its roots back to 1879, announced yesterday it had bought St Tropez from the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group in a deal worth £62.5m.

Graham Jones, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, called it an "excellent acquisition done at an attractive price".

St Tropez, used by celebrities including rugby player and Strictly Come Dancing star Gavin Henson, describes itself as "the UK's leading sunless tanning product range", with 30 products including mousses, sprays and lotions to get the tan effect without the dangers of sitting in the sun.

St Tropez, which has an agreement to use the French town's name, was set up by a Californian couple in 1991. Lloyds Development Capital (LDC) bought it in 2006 for £60m. It emerged this summer that the group had appointed Rothschild to find a buyer.

Alex Kanellis, the chief executive of PZ Cussons, said the move further strengthened its portfolio of "mass appeal, prestige brands". Others include The Sanctuary spa and skincare range and its Charles Worthington hair products. "We see good growth opportunities, both in the UK and overseas, particularly by linking the strategy to that of The Sanctuary spa brand," he added.

Gillian Hilditch, an analyst at JP Morgan Cazenove, said the news "marks another positive step" for a company which had a track record of strong deals. She added: "In terms of St Tropez, there are opportunities to grow that business internationally, particularly in the US, and also perhaps to consolidate the manufacturing."

PZ Cussons began 130 years ago as a trading post in West Africa set up by George Paterson and George Zochonis. Descendants of Mr Zochonis still hold 51 per cent of the group. PZ Cussons itself has been the focus of recent talk that it could be taken over. Shares in the group jumped 10 per cent early last week after rumours of private equity interest.