L'Oreal sees 2009 market flat to slightly growing

PARIS, June 4 (Reuters) - L'Oreal (OREP.PA) sees the world cosmetics market flat or growing slightly this year and is forecasting the group's trading to improve in the quarters ahead, the French beauty products giant said on Thursday 4 June.


L'Oréal models

The provider of Lancome, Biotherm and Vichy creams said last month it believed the industry had bottomed out at the end of the first quarter, and the worst of the consumer spending slowdown was now behind.

"We are rather confident that the cosmetics market (growth) should be indeed at zero or slightly positive this year," L'Oreal Chief Executive Jean-Paul Agon told a news conference organised to mark the French group's centenary.

"I confirm that things will improve over the next few quarters."

He said the French group's financial position was strong and it did not need to raise any cash or restructure its debt.

Asked if L'Oreal would tap the bond market, as spirits group Pernod Ricard (PERP.PA) did recently, Agon replied: "No plans."

Agon said L'Oreal, which calculated it had 15.8 percent of the global cosmetics market, continued to gain market share and planned to expand in Central Asia, India and the Middle East.

"We are confident about the growth of the world market, which will come back," Agon said. "This growth is driven by unstoppable forces which include globalisation, the ageing of population, urbanisation and innovation."

Agon said growth of the group's research expenditure would be greater than its sales growth this year, both on a reported and like-for-like basis.

Agon was hosting a gathering of hundreds of employees at L'Oreal's headquarters in Clichy, just outside Paris.

L'Oreal, which in translation was first called the French Company of Harmless Hair Dye, was founded in 1909 by chemist Eugene Schueller, whose 86-year-old daughter Liliane Bettencourt still owns 30 percent of the group.

Agon said Liliane Bettencourt and her own daughter would attend the celebratory dinner on Thursday 4 June, in an apparent attempt to quash media speculation the two were not on speaking terms. (Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis; Editing by Dan Lalor/Will Waterman)

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