Louis Vuitton owner in $14.5bn bid for Tiffany and Co

LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault tries for biggest deal yet

The logo of luxury  retailer Tiffany & Co is seen on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

The logo of luxury retailer Tiffany & Co is seen on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

 

LVMH has offered $14.5 billion for jeweler Tiffany and Co in a bid that could result in chairman Bernard Arnault’s biggest ever takeover and expand the Louis Vuitton owner’s reach into the US.

Tiffany said it received an unsolicited $120-a-share proposal from the luxury giant, after the French company confirmed a Bloomberg report that it was considering a bid.

The jeweller advised shareholders to take no action, saying its board is reviewing the offer. The price would be 22 per cent more than the October 25th close. Tiffany shares surged to $128.30 early Monday.

There’s no assurance that preliminary talks will result in an agreement, LVMH said in a statement, while Tiffany said no discussions are under way.

A deal for the jeweller would expand the French company’s access to US luxury shoppers, giving it an iconic, 182-year-old brand known for its robin’s egg blue boxes and its role as a favorite haunt of Holly Golightly in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Adding the brand to a stable that includes the Bulgari jewel and watch label, Christian Dior fashions, Hublot watches and Dom Perignon Champagne could help LVMH compete against Cartier owner Richemont.

Jewelry is one of few segments of the luxury sector where LVMH is not the leader, “and we know Mr Arnault likes to be always No. 1,” RBC analyst Rogerio Fujimori said in a note. “Tiffany would become a better company and stronger competitor under the ownership of LVMH.”

Even after Monday’s 30 per cent surge, Tiffany shares are well short of their peak of $139.50 in July 2018.

‘Stronger Competitor’

A fair valuation of the jeweler would be about $160 a share or higher, according to Cowen and Co. analyst Oliver Chen. He wrote in a note Sunday that Tiffany’s “strategic positioning as a gifting authority, brand DNA as a diamond and bridal authority, are leading qualities and deserve an exceptional premium.”

Paris-based LVMH was little changed in early afternoon trading. It has jumped about 50 per cent this year, giving it a market capitalisation of about $215 billion.

The French company has been riding a wave of luxury demand in China but faces risks including that country’s trade war with the US and the months-long anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong. Earlier this month, it opened a new Louis Vuitton factory in Texas in a ceremony that included President Donald Trump as the French company sharpens its focus on the US, its second-largest region by revenue behind Asia.

A takeover of Tiffany would be bigger than the $7 billion LVMH paid for the rest of Christian Dior in 2017. For 70-year-old Arnault, it would be his first major transaction since the purchase of luxury hotel chain Belmond last year, and potentially among the largest deals by a European company in 2019.

After a difficult period when it lost track of consumer trends and suffered from a slump in U.S. tourism, Tiffany has been bouncing back under chief executive Alessandro Bogliolo, revamping its New York flagship store with major investments targeting younger shoppers.

Bogliolo, a former executive of Bulgari and jeans label Diesel who was hired by Tiffany two years ago after hedge fund Jana Partners pushed for changes, has refreshed Tiffany’s marketing. The CEO said last month that he plans to open more stores in mainland China as a weak yuan deters the country’s consumers from spending overseas.

If an agreement is reached, it would mark the latest push by a French acquirer to tap growth in the US French technology company Dassault Systemes SE agreed in June to buy Medidata Solutions, a software firm that analyses clinical trials, for $5.7 billion. And last year, Axa SA acquired XL Group for $15.3 billion, seeking to capture a bigger slice of the US property and casualty market. – Bloomberg