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Family business roundup: JCDecaux and JBS expand operations, LVMH and ArcelorMittal consider sales

Sales and acquisitions have been proving popular with family businesses recently, with French outdoor advertiser JCDecaux and Brazilian food processor JBS in a buying mood, while L Capital and ArcelorMittal are considering selling some of their subsidiaries.

Sales and acquisitions have been proving popular with family businesses recently, with French outdoor advertiser JCDecaux and Brazilian food processor JBS in a buying mood, while L Capital and ArcelorMittal are considering selling some of their subsidiaries.

Family-controlled JCDecaux has acquired a 25% stake in Russia’s largest billboard operator, Russ Outdoor, which until 2011 was a subsidiary of fellow family-controlled group News Corporation.

In a statement released on 22 October, the Neuilly-sur-Seine firm, which is headed by second-gen brothers Jean-Francois and Jean-Charles Decaux, said the deal has yet to be reviewed by Russia’s anti-monopoly authorities. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Also in France, LVMH, the luxury conglomerate that is controlled by the Arnault family, is reportedly looking to sell its 51% stake in Groupe SMCP, which owns brands such as Sandro and Claudie Pierlot.

According to reports in the press, L Capital, LVMH’s investment arm, could sell its shares for about €600 million. Groupe SMCP is part-controlled by Florac, the family office of Marie-Jeanne Meyer, a member of the Louis Dreyfus family.

Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, the steelmaker controlled by the Mittal family, is also considering selling a minority stake of its Canadian iron ore subsidiary, ArcelorMittal Mines Canada, as it struggles to cope with the economic downturn and falling demand for steel in Europe.

In Asia, Richard Li, the younger son of Asia's richest man, acquired the Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand operations of Dutch insurance company ING, in a deal worth $2.14 billion (€1.64 billion).

Li is likely to have used family money to finance the operation. In May, his father, Li Ka-shing, chairman of two of Asia’s biggest conglomerates – Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa – offered to give him financial support to build his own business empire.

Meanwhile, News Corp denied being in talks with debt-burdened American newspaper business Tribune Company to buy the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

Last week, media reports said the New York-based conglomerate, which is controlled by the Murdoch family, was considering acquiring the two newspapers once Tribune exited bankruptcy. In a statement on 20 October, News Corp described the reports as “wholly inaccurate”.

In Germany, Bertelsmann, the media conglomerate owned by the Mohn family, said on 19 October it had ended talks with the Jahr family over the buyout of publishing house Gruner & Jahr. Bertelsmann has a 74.9% stake in Gruner & Jahr, while the Jahr family controls the remaining 25.1%. “The proportion of shares in Gruner & Jahr will remain unchanged,” the company said in a statement.

Thanks to an acquisition, JBS, a Brazilian family-owned food processing company, has further expanded in North America. The Sao Paulo-based company, which had revenues of 62 billion Brazilian reais (€23 billion) in 2011, reached an agreement with Canadian family business XL Foods to acquire a number of its assets, including its Lakeside plant in Brooks, Alberta.

Lakeside is Canada’s second largest beef-processing facility – to buy it, JBS will pay $50 million in cash and $50 million in shares.

However, international expansion is proving difficult for one family business in the US. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer by revenues, is currently being investigated by the Indian government. The Walton family-controlled company is accused of having directly invested $100 million in local supermarkets when this type of investment was illegal in the Asian country. 

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