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James Packer profits as cosmetics firm Jurlique sold for $335 million: Five lessons from a South Australian success story

Jurlique, the high-end natural skin care brand, has been sold by billionaire James Packer and other investors to Japan's fourth-largest skincare group.

In a deal that values the 26-year-old company at about $300 million, the Tokyo-listed Pola Orbis Holdings has nabbed stakes held by Packer, and JH Partners and Triarc Companies of the US.

The sale is a good result for Packer, whose late father Kerry bought into the company nine years ago for $25 million.

Packer told the Australian Financial Review he was "thrilled the brand has developed into a true global competitor" and he was confident in the brand's future under the new owners.

Jurlique was founded in South Australia and now has stores across the globe, with a recent focus on Asia. According to an IBISWorld industry report into the cosmetic and toiletry retailing industry in Australia, published in September, it sells products in 19 countries through 60-odd company owned concept stores, plus a further 5,000 retail outlets.

The company, which is said to have about 400 employees, attracted negative publicity in early 2007 after being fined $3.4 million by the Federal Court for resale price maintenance. The company also relaunched in 2007, according to IBISWorld, to quash the misconception it was in fact a French company.

Four years on, here are SmartCompany's lessons from a South Australian success story.

Good margins

Jurlique says its mission is to provide "the purest, most effective skin care through nature, science and innovation." According to IBISWorld, the business had a healthy bottom line too, with profit margins in 2008 tipped at about 30%.

The right investors

Attracting big players such as James Packer can give you a profile that belies your size, as well as the benefits of a big wallet to pursue expansion. The next investors are not small fry either, with plans to boost group sales to 250 billion yen ($US3.2 billion) by 2020.

Asian growth and Australian pastoral appeal

There's nothing terribly exotic about Adelaide for most Australians, but the company's description of South Australia as "one of the purest places on earth" certainly capitalises on the perception of Australia as a clean place in which to grow plants and manufacture. (It has a 153 acre farm in SA.) The company has also been aggressive in pursuing Asian growth, which will suit Pola Orbis' plans to expand in the Chinese market. It's also worth noting that Jurlique is well-placed to ride the recent interest in eco-ethical products.

Beautiful packaging

Jurlique products are beautifully presented despite sitting in the middle of the cosmetics market. IBISWorld has an expression for this – "masstige" – which refers to high-quality mass-market products with the appearance of prestige of premium items.

Smart diversification

Jurlique hasn't tried to reinvent the wheel but its 560 products go beyond skin care and essential oils for women into products for men and babies. The company has also ensured that customers don't need to trek too far to get their hands on some calendula cream, with products sold in concept stores, department stores, beauty salons, duty free stores, pharmacies and online.

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