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French court clears way for Hermes family holding company

By Attracta Mooney

The family behind Hermes is allowed to create a holding company, aimed at warding off takeover attempts by rival luxury group LVMH, a French court ruled today (15 September).

In Paris, the court of appeal upheld an earlier exemption given by French stock market watchdog AMF that granted the family permission to create the holding company without having to buy out other shareholders.

It came after French lobby group L'association de défense des actionnaires minoritaires (Adam), a vocal opponent of the plans, lodged a complaint with the court about the exemption.

Hermes, makers of the iconic Birkin and Kelly bags, requested that trading of the group’s shares be suspended on 15 September as the court made its decision on the holding company. Trading will resume on 16 September.

Fifty members of the founding family set about forming the holding company in January, as LVMH upped its shares in the Paris-based company.

Under the plans, the family holding company will own more the 50% of Hermes’s shares and family shareholders will find it much more difficult to sell to LVMH.

Family business LVMH, which is headed by France’s richest man Bernard Arnault, claims it does not want to take control of Hermes, although it has increased its stake in the French company to 22%, up 5% on October last year.

Also, Arnault has made similar promises in the past, only for LVMH to end up acquiring the company at a later stage.

Earlier this month, Hermes, currently managed by sixth-generation descendants of the company founder Thierry Hermes, reported a 22% year-on-year rise in revenue to €1.30 billion for the first half of 2011. 

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