Avon contemplating higher Coty offer

The cosmetics company needs more time to think about the latest bid.

By Kim Peterson May 14, 2012 1:23PM
Image: Money (© Corbis/Corbis)Shares of Avon (AVP) were up nearly 5% Monday after the company seemed more open to a takeover from Coty.

That doesn't mean a deal is happening anytime soon. Rather, instead of slamming the door in Coty's face, the cosmetics company now says it needs a week to think about the offer.

What changed? The money, of course. Avon rejected Coty's original offer of $23.25 a share as too stingy. But Coty upped its bid to $24.75 a share -- about $10.65 billion total -- and said it had the backing of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B). One source told Reuters that Berkshire could contribute $2.5 billion of the financing.

Coty gave Avon until the end of Monday to start talks, but now Avon is asking for another week. Coty hasn't responded yet.

Here are five reasons Avon is hesitant.

1. Coty's offer is still too low. "Cosmetics is a great business," one trader and Avon shareholder told Reuters. "It deserves a premium. If I were them, I would ask for $28 or more."

2. Avon has a new CEO. Sheri McCoy, a former top executive at Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), just joined April 23. McCoy undoubtedly has a plan to turn Avon around. Does the board want to give that up and hand the reins to Coty?

3. Coty wants to see the books. Coty wants to know what it's bidding on and has asked to see Avon's books and its product pipeline. Avon is understandably nervous about handing all that information over to a competitor.

4. Coty is playing hardball. The company gave Avon only a few business days to think about its latest offer. And Coty has also said its offer is subject to due diligence -- in other words, it could lower its price after looking at Avon's books. "To say yes to a price when the buyer has said it has diligence concerns is very dangerous for a company," The Wall Street Journal notes.

5. Other suitors are interested. Avon may get a bid from Richmont Holdings, a consumer brand company, Bloomberg reports. Avon would love to see itself at the center of a bidding war and may want to hold out to encourage Richmont.

In the following video, one analyst thinks Avon is worth much more than Coty's offer.



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