French cosmetics and luxury goods group L'Oreal has started exclusive talks to sell its The Body Shop business to Brazilian make-up company Natura Cosmeticos in a possible €1 billion deal. 

L'Oreal said earlier this year it was reviewing its strategy for The Body Shop, which it bought for £652m in 2006.

It said that the sale of the business had attracted a wide range of bidders. 

L'Oreal said today it had received a firm offer from Natura Cosmeticos.

It said that the proposed deal put an enterprise value of €1 billion on the 40 year old beauty brand, a pioneer in mass marketing of cosmetics made without animal testing and with natural ingredients. 

Analysts said the price tag had pleased L'Oreal investors, given earlier reports it could be sold for around €800m.

Founded in 1976 by British entrepreneur Anita Roddick, the company pioneered ethical beauty.

But since then it has fallen victim to increased competition from newcomers also offering similar products based on natural ingredients with no animal-testing. 

"Natura will support The Body Shop development in the long-term and enable The Body Shop to best serve its customers while respecting its strong commitments towards its employees, franchisees and stakeholders," said L'Oreal chairman and chief executive Jean-Paul Agon in a statement. 

Natura chief executive Joao Paulo Ferreira said that for his part, The Body Shop would fit in well with Natura's similar businesses, such as its "Aesop" brand.