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France wins Hong Kong IPO

HONG KONG, Mar 26 – French cosmetics group L\’Occitane has gained Hong Kong regulators\’ approval for an initial public offering to raise up to 300 million US dollars, a report said Friday.

The company, which sells skincare products in 85 countries, will be the first French group to list on the city\’s bourse, Dow Jones Newswires said, citing two people familiar with the situation.

L\’Occitane is seeking to list on the Hong Kong bourse early May, with HSBC Holdings, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, and UBS AG as bookrunners on the deal, it said.

The Financial Times reported earlier that the cash raised could fund an Asian expansion for the company, a private enterprise established in 1976.

"L’Occitane products are viewed in Asia as affordable luxury and a Hong Kong listing makes sense in the context of its China strategy, future growth plans and regional brand recognition," the paper quoted a person close to the company as saying.

L\’Occitane had revenues of 731 million dollars in the year to March 2009. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for around 40 percent of global sales for the company, which is planning 40 new outlets in China, the newspaper said.

The move is part of a trend for high-end retailers battered by financial turmoil in the United States and Europe to turn their attention to the burgeoning Asian market, where the vast economies of India and China have continued to post impressive growth rates.

A listing by L\’Occitane would be a boost for the Hong Kong bourse, which said Thursday it was seeking to attract more foreign firms with an interest in tapping into the Chinese market\’s vast potential.

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