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U.S. Business Procter & Gamble said to explore sale or IPO of beauty brands

P&G is looking to unload some of its beauty brands.

Amy Sancetta/AP

Procter & Gamble Co. is exploring a sale or initial public offering of some of its beauty brands in a single deal, people with knowledge of the matter said, in a move that would accelerate its plans to exit up to 100 product lines.

P&G is working with its advisers on the plan, the people said, though it hasn't finalized the details, including which products will be separated. The company may still decide not to follow through with the separation, the people said.

The company's beauty unit includes an array of brands such as Covergirl makeup, SKII skin cream and Herbal Essence shampoo, along with fragrances. It generated $19.5-billion in sales in the year through June, or about 23 per cent of total sales of $83-billion, according to P&G's annual report. The sales have flagged in recent years, with 2014's total for the segment about the same as it was in 2010.

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P&G has been reviewing each of its brands, as the company looks to exit those where it doesn't command a market-leading position. Among those likely to be sold are some fragrances, make-up and hair salon products. P&G is working on turning around its two largest beauty brands, Pantene shampoo and Olay skin care.

P&G is also exploring the sale of its Wella hair-care business, which could be valued at more than $5-billion, people with knowledge of the matter have said. Last year, it agreed to sell Duracell, its battery-making business, to investor Warren Buffett.

Paul Fox, a spokesman for P&G, declined to comment.

After its shares tumbled nearly 10 per cent this year, the company has a market value of $222.4-billion.

Companies announced a record number of spinoffs in the 12 months through February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, usually with the rationale that units will fetch a higher market value once they're separated from a larger business. The plans – from Pfizer Inc.'s decision to separate its animal-heath business to Symantec Corp.'s plan to split into two publicly traded companies – have been cheered by investors.

Chief Executive Officer A.G. Lafley rejoined P&G in May 2013, almost four years after stepping down, to help it regain customers in key categories such as detergents and beauty. Known for big moves, such as his $57-billion acquisition of Gillette Co. in 2005, Lafley replaced Bob McDonald, whose strategy was deemed some by investors and analysts as too timid.

In January, P&G said second-quarter profit fell 31 per cent as the stronger dollar ate away at sales and earnings from its international units.

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Lafley has tried to combat a currency-driven sales slowdown in emerging markets by adding more premium-priced products to P&G's domestic offerings. The strategy wasn't enough to keep revenue growing in the second quarter, as foreign-exchange rate pressure that Lafley called "unprecedented" reduced sales by 5 percentage points.

While the company continues to transform itself to focus more closely on the household and personal-care businesses, "the considerable business portfolio, product innovation and productivity progress was not enough to overcome foreign exchange," Lafley said in a statement at the time.

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