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Family business roundup: LVMH, Slim family make acquisitions, while Synthes is sold

It’s been a week of acquisitions and sales for three family businesses across the world, with French luxury giant LVMH and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim on buying sprees, while Swiss family-controlled Synthes has been sold.

It’s been a week of acquisitions and sales for three family businesses across the world, with French luxury giant LVMH and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim on buying sprees, while Swiss family-controlled Synthes has been sold.

In Mexico, Carlos Slim and his family bought an 8.4% stake in Argentina’s largest oil company YPF, which was part-nationalised in April by Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, the Slim family, which also controls telecommunications giant America Movil, acquired 32.9 million shares in YPF through its companies Inmobiliaria Carso (1.8%) and Grupo Financiero Inbursa (6.6%).

However, it is still unclear if Slim bought these shares on the stock market – about 17% of YPF is listed in New York – or if they belonged to the Argentinian Eskenazi family, which at the end of May lost its 25.5% stake in YPF. The Eskenazi family, through holding company Grupo Peterson, borrowed $3.4 billion (€2.7 billion) in 2007 from Spanish energy group Repsol and a number of banks, including Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas and Itau, to buy a quarter of the Argentinian oil company, planning to repay the debt using YPF’s dividends. But following the nationalisation, with dividends suspended, Grupo Petersen was unable to repay the loans, and Repsol and the banks took over its stake.

Meanwhile in Europe, Arnault family-controlled luxury group LVMH also was in a shopping mood. The company, which owns brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Celine, acquired fellow family-controlled tailored suit-maker Arnys, in a move that will help the Paris-based company expand in the growing menswear industry.

Arnys, which has been controlled by the Grimbert family since 1933, was acquired for an undisclosed sum. Currently headed by third-generation Jean and Michel Grimbert, the firm will be integrated into LVMH’s Berluti brand, an upmarket shoemaker that the Arnault family bought in 1993.

But while Slim and LVMH made acquisitions, Swiss medical device-maker Synthes, controlled by Hansjoerg Wyss and his family, was sold to US pharmaceutical group Johnson & Johnson.

In a statement released on 14 June, the New York-listed firm said it completed the acquisition of Synthes, which started in April 2011, for $19.7 billion.

The Solothurn-based family business will be integrated into the DePuy group of companies, which specialise in treatments for joints or skeleton injuries.

Update (20/6/2012): The Slim family did not buy the stake in YPF, but rather received it as collateral, according to new reports. It is thought the family purchased debt owned to banks which, between 2007 and 2011, had helped the Eskenazi family acquire YPF’s shares. When contacted, Slim’s assistant was not available for comment.

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