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Colgate-Palmolive Co. is moving to strengthen its global leadership in oral care.

The strategy includes the $1 billion acquisition of American Home Products Corp.'s Kolynos unit and the worldwide rebranding of Colgate's Precision toothbrushes under the Total name.

The Precision name change, to take place in the second quarter, has prompted speculation that Colgate may be close to getting the nod from the Food & Drug Administration for the U.S. launch of Total, an antibacterial, triclosan-based toothpaste.

While a Colgate spokesman denied the toothbrush brand conversion means the FDA is ready to give Total toothpaste the green light, A.T. Kearney, New York, consultant Burt Flickinger III said the switch "does augur FDA approval will come fairly quickly, maybe by the end of the year."

Once it comes, Mr. Flickinger expects Colgate to consider rebranding Act pre-dental rinse under the Total name and possibly introduce a Total mouthwash.

Triclosan, expected to revolutionize the $2 billion-plus U.S. oral-care market much as it has the bar and liquid soap category, could also give Colgate new vitality in toothpastes. Colgate's U.S. share declined 3.1 points to 21.4% for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 30, according to Information Resources Inc. Colgate ranks second in the U.S. toothpaste market, lagging Procter & Gamble Co.'s 31% share.

But globally, Colgate is king, a crown all the more firmly in place following the Kolynos acquisition in South America.

Kolynos will be operated separately from Colgate in Latin America, retaining McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Sao Paulo, and marking that shop's return to the Colgate fold following an agency consolidation in early 1994. Budget wasn't disclosed.

Young & Rubicam, New York, Colgate's lead oral-care agency, will oversee the rebranding of Precision as Total. Undisclosed advertising, possibly including an endorsement from the American Dental Association, will support, industry executives say.

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