Private equity firm to acquire financially-strapped K-beauty brand Skinfood for $171m

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

South Korean beauty brand Skinfood is in the process of being acquired by private equity firm, Pine Tree Partners, for ₩200bn.
South Korean beauty brand Skinfood is in the process of being acquired by private equity firm, Pine Tree Partners, for ₩200bn.
South Korean beauty brand Skinfood is in the process of being acquired by private equity firm, Pine Tree Partners, for ₩200bn.

Pine Tree Partners placed ₩177.6bn ($152.6m) for skin food and ₩22.4bn ($19.2m) for its parent company, iPeeres Cosmetics, according to several local media reports.

The match was overseen by the Seoul bankruptcy court and will be finalised on August 23, the deadline for Skinfood to submit its plans for rehabilitation.

Exceeding expectations

According to reports, the liquidation value of Skinfood and Ipeeres Cosmetics was ₩9.1bn ($7.8m) and ₩10.2bn ($8.7m) respectively.

However, Skinfood’s brand awareness in China, as well as the heated competition between several bidders, helped to spur the price of the brand upwards.

In April, media outlets reported that some 13 domestic and foreign investors had expressed interest in Skinfood, despite its mounting debt of around ₩40bn ($34m).

This surprised market experts as the affordable South Korean beauty brands such as Skinfood have been struggling in the market.

Rise and fall

According to the Korean Herald​, Skinfood was once the third most popular Korean cosmetics brand in terms of sales, behind Missha and The Face Shop.

Skinfood had developed a following for using food ingredients, such as egg and tomato, in its products.

The unique concept boosted Skinfood’s popularity and helped the brand expand internationally, including the US, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

However, Skinfood saw sales decline by 25% in 2017 while its operating losses hit ₩1bn.

The decline of budget K-beauty brands like Skinfood was mainly due to the increasing competition from Innisfree and Missha, which offer similar products at a similar price.

The market also suffered blows from the sharp decline of inbound Chinese tourists due to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak and tensions between Seoul and Beijing over the THAAD missile defence system.

After being plagued by rumours of financial issues and empty shelves, Skinfood announced it had filed for court receivership last October.

Like Skinfood, Missha had also been bought out by a private equity firm.

IMM Private Equity acquired a majority stake in Able C&C, Missha’s parent company, in 2017.

Since then, the company has acquired another South Korea beauty brand, Mefactory for ₩32.4bn ($286m).

Most recently, the Able C&C rebranded existing Missha storefronts into a new multi-brand concept store under the brand NUNC.

This was a response to the rising popularity of multi-brand health and beauty stores such as Olive Young in South Korea.

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