Originally created 01/17/97

Savannah company buys South African cosmetics maker



SAVANNAH - Carson Inc. has bought a South African cosmetics company, a move that will continue the Savannah-based company's expansion on that continent.

Carson Holdings Ltd., a subsidiary of Carson Inc., bought all the assets and trademarks of Nu-Me Cosmetics of Johannesburg for 500,000 shares of Carson Holdings stock, worth about $1.2 million, based on recent trading prices.

Carson Holdings' common stock is traded on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Carson Inc. stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Nu-Me, which markets and manufactures a range of cosmetics and skin care products targeted to South Africa's black population, had sales in excess of $1 million last year, said Otha Porter, Carson director of investor relations, adding that this year, Carson plans to broaden the Nu-Me skin care line and expand into selected personal care products.

Nu-Me's products primarily treat oily skin, blemishes and other skin disorders and do not contain harsh skin-lightening ingredients, Carson officials said.

The company will try to increase Nu-Me penetration in major South African supermarkets and chain stores now carrying Carson products.

Carson officials had no details on the number of employees Nu-Me currently has.

Savannah-based Carson began expanding into South Africa last year with the purchase of a manufacturing plant near Johannesburg. In late 1996, the company purchased a plant under construction in Ghana and expects to have it in operation by mid-year, company officials said.

Roy Keith, Carson chairman and chief executive officer, said recently that the company is looking into expanding into Kenya and into Brazil in the near future.

Industry analysts estimate about $40 million worth of ethnic hair care products were sold in Africa last year.

Analysts who watch Carson say the international moves are well-planned.

Robert Mescal with the Institute for Econometric Research in Deerfield Beach, Fla., said Carson should do well in Brazil.

Carson also is expanding its Savannah plant to meet the expanding international need for its products, Mr. Keith said. The company has more than 300 employees in Savannah.