This 170-Year-Old Fragrance Maker Has Two Swiss Rivals Dueling

(Bloomberg) -- Robertet, a fragrance supplier dating back to 1850, is at the center of a duel between two of the industry’s giants, Givaudan SA and Firmenich.

Robertet, which claims an ethos of “fierce independence” on its website, revealed Givaudan has built a 4.68% stake by buying up shares on the Paris stock exchange. Just five months earlier, Firmenich acquired a stake from an investment fund, and went into the market to raise its holding to 21.6%.

Quality assets in the rapidly consolidating flavors and fragrance industry are much sought after, leading to the current tete-a-tete between the two Swiss companies, both headquartered around Geneva. Based in the fragrance heartland of Grasse, Provence, Robertet is in the sweet spot of supplying natural ingredients that tap into a surging consumer thirst for chemical free products.

“With the stake in Robertet, Givaudan is definitely blocking Firmenich from taking over the company in full,” Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy.

The main shareholder is the Maubert family, with 47%. Robertet’s shares have enjoyed their best year on record in 2019, adding 72% in the fifth straight year of double-digit gains.

With an opening declaration of non-negotiable independence, Firmenich got short shrift when it met with Robertet’s management on Dec. 4. Topics like a rapprochement between the two companies, and representation on the board never made it onto the agenda.

Spokespeople from Firmenich and Givaudan weren’t immediately available for comment.

Givaudan’s investment in Robertet is worth more than 100 million francs, according to Vontobel’s Bertschy. Robertet is a top 10 player in the industry with 525 million euros in sales and a market value of 2 billion euros, he added.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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