Richemont Could Spin Off Net-a-Porter After Quashing Sale Talk

Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, which yesterday ruled out selling Net-a-Porter, may spin off the online fashion retailer on the stock market as it refocuses on luxury watches and jewelry, according to Sanford C. Bernstein.

In an uncharacteristic step, Richemont yesterday said Net-a-Porter isn’t for sale, in an effort to quash speculation that it held talks to sell the unit to Bologna, Italy-based rival Yoox SpA. The owner of the Cartier jewelry brand “could also consider to make a separate listing of Net-a-Porter, keeping the majority,” Bernstein analyst Mario Ortelli said by e-mail.

Alan Grieve, a spokesman for Richemont, declined to comment beyond yesterday’s statement.

Richemont fueled speculation in May that it could break up its fashion and leather-goods unit after Chairman Johann Rupert said the Geneva-based company should have been quicker to cull bad investments and the division’s head left. The jewelry maker has appointed Nomura Holdings Inc. to sell handbag maker Lancel, people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg last month.

“This idea to refocus the group more on hard luxury will continue,” Ortelli said. He expects Richemont to seek to divest Shanghai Tang, Dunhill and possibly Chloe and Azzedine Alaia.

Richemont acquired the two-thirds of Net-a-Porter that it didn’t own in 2010 in a deal valuing the retailer at 350 million pounds ($559 million). Net-a-Porter, founded by former fashion journalist Natalie Massenet in 2000, reported a loss of 19 million euros ($25.7 million) in the 12 months through March.

Earnings at Richemont’s fashion and leather-goods unit fell by more than half in the last fiscal year.

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