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Ansell, best known for its extensive condom product range, has attracted the attention of private equity groups for the sale of its condom-making business, multiple people familiar with the process said.

Apax, the European private equity group, and L Catterton, the Connecticut based company, are said to be interested in purchasing the business, which includes the LifeStyles and Skyn brands, the people said.

It emerged after the company – which makes rubber goods from diving suits to rubber gloves – said last summer it was launching a strategic review of the business as analysts viewed the division as marginal.

The formal sale process started earlier this year and bidders are preparing offers for a business that could cost more than $500m although the company has not provided a sale price for a division that amounts for 14 per cent of Ansell’s revenue.

Apax declined to comment. Catterton did not respond for a request to comment.

On Monday, Magnus Nicolin, Ansell’s chief executive, said the company had received interest from several parties on the unit, and expected a sale to be finalised before July. The company declined to comment on the identity of the bidders.

Industry insiders said the sale has bidders excited about the potential growth of the business with one investment bank referring internally to it as “project sweat”.

One of Ansell’s most famous condom brands is Skyn, which has been marketed as “the closest thing to wearing nothing”.

“There is huge growth in China,” a person familiar with the sale said. The Chinese have traditionally shied away from using condoms but recent changes in culture – including teaching sexual education in schools and access to online resources – has changed this.

For Ansell alone condom sales have grown by 8 per cent as a result of strong performance in Asia, mainly China.

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