Procter & Gamble is rumoured to have begun the process of selling off its lagging beauty brands in an effort to streamline operations and drive up profitability.

P&G has sent out sale documents to potential bidders for its Wella haircare unit, cosmetics brands and its fragrance businesses, according to claims from industry insiders. The businesses could be sold individually or combined, and is said to be worth around US$19bn.

Potential buyers include Henkel AG, Revlon, Unilever, Kao Corporation and Coty.

Henkel is believed to be the most likely buyer, having bought a 6.9 percent stake in Wella in March 2003, only to see P&G acquire most of the voting shares two weeks later. The German firm acquired three US hair care businesses last year and is estimated to have as much as US$4.9bn available for deals. 

The sale is part of a plan, announced by Chief Executive Officer A.G. Lafley in August, to drive the company’s growth by divesting of slower-selling brands.

Alongside a potential sale, P&G is also rumoured to be exploring an initial public offering of some of its beauty brands, such as Pantene and Olay.