Chinese Conglomerate Buys Ahava Consmetics for $76 Million Amid BDS Concerns

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The Israeli settlement Mitzpeh Shalem, where Ahava produces its cosmetic products.Credit: Courtesy and Gil Cohen Magen

A delegation of executives from China’s Fosun International has arrived in Israel to seal a deal buying Ahava, the skincare treatments company known as much for arousing the wrath of the international boycott movement as it is for sourcing the minerals of the Dead Sea.

An agreement selling the company for about 290 million shekels ($76.4 million) will be signed on Sunday, B. Gaon Holdings, which owns 15% of the company, told the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Thursday. It did not identify the buyer, but it’s been known for several months that talks were underway with Fosun.

Ahava sells cosmetics and skincare treatments in 30 countries around the world, basing its formulations on the Dead Sea’s mineral-rich mud. But the Ahava plant’s location along the Dead Sea at Kibbutz Mitzpeh Shalem, which lies within the West Bank, have made it a target of boycott, divestment and sanctions activists.

In 2011, after months of constant, sometimes violent protests by BDS activists, the company was forced to close its London retail shop. Last May, Ahava said it would be relocating its plant inside Israel’s 1967 borders adjacent to Kibbutz Ein Gedi, although it denied BDS pressure was a factor. It said the new facility would use more advanced equipment and include a visitors center.

News that Ahava was on the block was revealed by TheMarker in August 2015, but negotiations to complete the deal were held up by among other things Fosun’s insistence that all of Ahava’s shareholders agree to sell.

Anti-Ahava activist in London's Covent Garden. Credit: Activestills

Ahava’s biggest shareholders are Israel’s Livnat family and Kibbutz Mitzpeh Shalem, each of which has a 35% stake. Shamrock Holdings, an investment vehicle for Walt Disney’s family, has another 18.5% and Kibbutz Kalia and an association off Dead Sea kibbutzim hold 12.5%.

Four years ago Abigail Disney, a Shamrock shareholder and political activist, renounced her share of the family’s profits in Ahava to protest the plant’s location.

“Recent evidence from the Israeli Civil Administration documents that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories sources mud used in its products from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea, which is in direct contravention to provisions in the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Convention forbidding the exploitation of occupied natural resources,” she said in a statement at the time.

Apart from getting all of Ahava’s shareholders on board, the sale was also delayed by a decision in February by Dorit Salinger, the treasury commissioner for capital markets, insurance and savings, to reject an insurance license for Fosun, scuttling its planned acquisition of insurer Phoenix from the Delek Group. As a result, Fosun put its other Israeli investment plans on hold.

Shares of Goan Holdings, which said it would post an 18 million-shekel gain on the sale, were down 5% to 38 agorot in late trading on the TASE.

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