Rocher Pays $129m for Israeli Body Products Chain Sabon

Acquisition to buy 66% stake; values business with its 175 stores around the world at half-billion shekels.

Owners of Sabon.
Eyal Toueg

Sabon, the Israeli natural bath and body products chain, is being acquired by the French cosmetic maker Groupe Rocher at a company value of 500 million shekels ($129 million), the two sides said Monday.

The closely held French company will buy 66% of the maker and retailer of soap and other products from its two founders, Sigal Kotler-Levi and Avi Piatok, who took a single store called Sabon Shel Pa’am on Tel Aviv’s Shenkin Street 20 years ago and turned it into a global business operating in 14 countries.

Under the terms of the deal, Kotler-Levi and Piatok will continue to manage Sabon, and Groupe Rocher has an option to buy out the rest of the business.

Sabon said the sale was aimed at strengthening and accelerating Sabon’s global business, which began when it opened its first store in New York City’s West Villages 13 years ago. Groupe Rocher, whose brands include Yves Rocher cosmetics and Petit Bateau underwear, had sales of 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) annually and employs 16,000 people.

Sabon said it will be able “to enjoy Rocher’s internal resources and the group’s strong relationships will all support the company and maximize its opportunities for global growth. The joint objectives that have been set with our new partners cover a wide range of areas, including expanding into new markets, continued growth and opening new stores in existing markets.”

Sabon’s stores, with their lavish country-style décor and overwhelming scent of soap, are a familiar site across Israel. The company counts 40 shops of them in Israel alone, another 40 in Japan, 17 in the United States and 13 in France. Some of the shops are owned directly by the company, whose global operations have been headed by Ronen Zohar since 2008, and other by local franchisers. Global sales run about 100 million euros annually.

Kotler-Levi and Piatok initially offered handmade lavender soap but their product line grew quickly and today the company operates a 3,600-square meter plant in Kiryat Gat and a 4,600-square meter logistics center, employing more than 480 people, most of them in Israel. All told, it counts 175 stores around the world.

Groupe Rocher is 97%-owned by its founding Rocher family. Although it operates in 110 companies, nearly three quarters of its sales are generated in France and Western Europe. CEO Bris Rocher said on Monday he expected Sabon to contribute to his coany’s global growth strategy.