Geneva/Zurich: Nestle SA Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider took another step toward sharpening the food giant’s portfolio, putting the company’s skin-care business with sales of 2.7 billion Swiss francs ($2.8 billion) on the block.

The maker of Nescafe and KitKat said Thursday it opened a strategic review of its skin health unit that should be complete by mid-2019. A sale could fetch as much as 8 billion francs, estimates Alain Oberhuber, an analyst at MainFirst.

Nestle has been buying and selling businesses at an accelerated pace under Schneider amid pressure from activist investor Dan Loeb to focus on its main food and beverage businesses. Selling dermatological brands would dismantle a business that his predecessor Paul Bulcke touted as a promising new avenue of growth.

Loeb’s Third Point hedge fund has called on the company to increase shareholder returns. In a January letter, Loeb said Nestle’s foray into dermatology seems unrelated to its core business and should be unwound.

Nestle Skin Health makes products ranging from acne medicines to injectable skin fillers that compete with Botox. The unit, with sales of about 2.7 billion Swiss francs ($2.8 billion) last year, has been a weak spot for the company due to generic competition, and is cutting hundreds of jobs and closing sites.

“One of the CEO’s top priorities at the beginning of his mandate was to stop the hemorrhaging, which had been tolerated for some time," Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst at Bank Vontobel AG, wrote in a note. The unit had engaged in “record value destruction in the past four years," and now Nestle is “executing like a metronome."

Nestle shares rose as much as 0.6% in early trading. They’re little changed from where they were before Loeb announced his stake in June last year.

The business was built out of a joint venture called Galderma that Nestle formed with L’Oreal SA in 1981. Nestle paid L’Oreal more than $3 billion to buy the business out in 2014 and in the following months paid a further $1.4 billion to buy a portfolio of skin-care drugs from Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

This week Nestle agreed to sell Gerber Life Insurance to Western & Southern Financial Group for $1.55 billion as it considers such financial products outside its main business. The company also sold $8 billion of bonds to help fund its alliance with Starbucks Corp.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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