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Aesop’s fables: Melbourne skincare company up for sale

Melbourne-based skincare company Aesop is up for sale, just months after South Australian competitor Jurlique was flogged for about $300 million.

According to a report in the Australian Financial Review, Aesop’s owners - founder Dennis Paphitis, management and Harbert Private Equity of the US - are hoping for $150 million for the company, which has $45 million in annual sales.

The company’s sales have grown by 30% despite the recent retail slowdown and a sales flyer from Goldman Sachs reportedly notes expectations of $65 million in revenue next financial year.

Aesop’s head office was contacted this morning, but declined to comment.

The company – lauded for its great-smelling products, minimalist stores, and gift packs emblazoned with pithy quotes - has stores across Australia, Europe, Asia and the United States.

A sale might be designed to push the company’s overseas expansion plans and ride the recent eco-ethical products boom.

In a recent interview with The Age, Paphitis said this financial year will be the first in which total sales outside of Australia will be greater than domestic sales, with plans for more American stores in particular.

The 49-year-old Paphitis, a former philosophy student and now the company's creative director, also told the paper: ''My point is that if you deliver something that is considered and original and you do so with integrity there's always going to be a market.''

Aesop’s website says it is committed to “using the finest plant-based ingredients and non-botanical elements such as anti-oxidants, once we are confident that research has proven them effective.”

The potential sale draws parallels with the sale of 27-year-old Jurlique in December, which was founded in South Australia but now has stores across the globe, with a recent focus on Asia.

The Tokyo-listed Pola Orbis Holdings nabbed stakes in Jurlique held by gaming billionaire James Packer, JH Partners and Triarc Companies of the US.

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