By Saabira Chaudhuri
LONDON -- Unilever PLC has agreed to buy Carver Korea, a Seoul-based maker of toners and moisturizers, for $2.7 billion, the latest in a string of skin-care acquisitions as it pivots toward higher-growth sectors.
Unilever is buying what it described as South Korea's fastest-growing skin-care business from Bain Capital Private Equity and Goldman Sachs, which acquired the company slightly over a year ago. Carver sells age-management, skin-hydration and skin-nourishment products under the brand AHC. It sells its products in Korea, China and the U.S.
In recent years Unilever has upped its exposure to skin products, buying four high-end skin-care brands in 2015 alone. Last year it bought Dollar Shave Club, which gave it men's skin-care brand Big Cloud and hairstyling brand Boogies.
Under Paul Polman, a former Procter & Gamble Co. executive who became Unilever's chief executive in 2009, the company has shifted away from food and toward higher-margin personal care. In 2016, personal care made up 40% of Unilever's revenue, up from 28% in 2008.
The company has also been working to fend off an increasingly sophisticated array of local competitors that market through channels such as Instagram and YouTube and often sell directly to customers over the web. Last year it embarked on a restructuring aimed at making its local units more responsive to trends in their markets and is employing its own social-media influencers while also buying local brands.
Buying Carver will help Unilever gain ground in the Korean beauty market, where hair and beauty trends often influence ones further west. South Korea is the world's fourth largest market for skin care, according to Unilever.
Carver, which started out in 1999 selling products to beauty salons, reported sales of EUR321 million ($383.5 million) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of EUR137 million in 2016. It sells essences, toners, moisturizers, masks, and sun protection.
Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at [email protected]