Beauty giant L’Oréal is buying Aesop in a deal that values the brand at $2.5 billion, the largest ever acquisition for the French conglomerate.Since 2012, Aesop, which makes luxury soaps, body care products and more, has been owned by Brazilian personal care company Natura & Co. In that period, Aesop’s sales ballooned from $28 million to $537 million.According to a statement from L’Oréal, Aesop and Natura & Co., under its new ownership, Aesop will continue to expand globally. (It announced its intention to enter the mainland Chinese market in 2021.) With the sale, Natura & Co. will turn its attention to its Avon and The Body Shop businesses.“Aesop taps into all of today’s ascending currents and L’Oréal will contribute to unleash its massive growth potential, notably in China and Travel retail,” said Nicolas Hieronimus, L’Oréal’s chief executive, in a statement.Rumours have swirled around a potential Aesop sale since last fall, as Natura & Co. looked to reduce its debt load. LVMH and Shiseido were also named among the named potential purchasers. At one point, it was even reported that Natura & Co. was considering a US IPO for the brand.L’Oreal was mostly on the sidelines during the last major round of dealmaking in 2019, when conglomerates including The Estee Lauder Cos., Coty, Unilever and Shiseido bought fast-growing brands in nine- and even 10-figure deals.Now, it may well be kicking off a long-predicted sequel to that year’s acquisition spree. Analysts are expecting more deals to happen as brands that saw a spike in sales during the pandemic look for deep-pocketed partners to help them scale globally.The Aesop deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.