LVMH Increases Holding in Rival Hermes in ‘Opportunistic’ Move

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world’s largest luxury goods maker, said it increased its stake in Hermes International SCA to 23.1 percent from 22.6 percent in what it described as “an opportunistic move.”

“It doesn’t say anything about our attitude in the future so you cannot extrapolate that for the rest of the year,” Chief Financial Officer Jean-Jacques Guiony said on a conference call.

Paris-based LVMH raised its stake in the maker of Birkin bags in the first six months of 2013, according to LVMH’s half-year consolidated financial statement published yesterday. As of June 30, Hermes’s share price, applied for the purpose of valuing this investment, was 248 euros, LVMH said. Hermes traded at 254.55 euros as of 4:18 p.m. in Paris today.

Hermes has called repeatedly for LVMH to reduce the stake it built starting in 2010 after converting cash settlement equity swaps. France’s financial markets regulator fined LVMH 8 million euros ($10.6 million) this month for breaching disclosure rules. LVMH, which plans to appeal the ruling, has said it did nothing wrong after buying equity derivatives of Hermes shares in 2008.

LVMH, which this month agreed to pay 2 billion euros for an 80 percent stake in Italian cashmere clothier Loro Piana SpA, said today it doesn’t need to sell its Hermes stake to fuel growth in other parts of its business.

“Time will tell,” Guiony said. “We are pretty pleased with the performance of the Hermes business so there is no particular pressure on our side.”

Hermes last week reported a 16 percent increase in quarterly revenue, excluding currency swings, as sales of its Kelly handbags and other goods surged in Asia and the Americas. LVMH yesterday reported second-quarter comparable revenue growth of 9 percent, sending the shares up 4.5 percent.

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