Unilever has bought skincare firm Carver Korea from private equity firm Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs for €2.27 billion ($2.7 billion), strengthening its hold in North Asia, the largest skincare market in the world.
The “Korean wave” of cultural influence, or hallyu in Korean, is taking Asia by storm, with countries across the region hooked on Seoul's films, soap operas and K-pop music. Meanwhie South Korea is the fourth largest skincare market in the world and is also a source of global beauty trends.
Global cosmetics firms are rushing to get in on the action. Estée Lauder which bought an interest in Have & Be, the South Korean company behind skin care brands Dr. Jart+ and Do The Right Thing back in 2015. L Catteron, backed by LVMH, bought a stake in Korea's Clio in 2016.
Building on its origins as an aesthetics company supplying professional products to beauty salons, Carver has become the fastest-growing skincare business in South Korea, through sales of its brand, AHC.
AHC’s portfolio is focused on two high-demand consumer spaces: age management, and hydration and nourishment.
Founded in 1999, Carver generated sales of €321 million and EBITDA of €137 million in 2016, Unilever said in a statement on Monday.
In an interview with FinanceAsia in July, Jonathan Zhu, managing director of Bain Capital, said the private equity firm had substantially expanded Carver’s e-commerce platforms so its products are now sold on major e-commerce platforms in China.
Bain Capital plans to continue to ride the hallyu wave, using Korean brands’ popularity to sell the products of its portfolio companies to China’s burgeoning middle class.
Bain Capital is in the midst of buying a controlling stake in Hugel, a South Korean medical beauty firm that produces botulinium toxin, the anti-wrinkle treatment, for KRW927.4 billion ($830 million).