French prosecutors will look into Hermes’s claim that fellow luxury goods group LVMH engaged in insider trading to accumulate a stake in the smaller family business.
"A preliminary investigation has been opened in order to assess the content of the complaint," an official at the Paris prosecutor's office said on 13 October.
The investigation comes three months after Hermes, which is 75% controlled by descendants of founder Thierry Hermes, filed a civil complaint with the French stock market regulator – the Autorite des Marches Financiers. It accused LVMH of insider trading and share price manipulation.
But Hermes, which had revenues of €2.8 billion in 2011, also asked the AMF to conduct a criminal investigation into the way LVMH bought the stake.
This is the latest episode in the long-lasting war between the Hermes family and LVMH, which owns brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy, and has revenues of about €24 billion.
The conflict first started in October 2010, when LVMH, headed by Bernard Arnault, revealed it controlled a 14% stake in Hermes, famous for its Birkin bags and silk scarves. LVMH has since raised its stake to more than 20%, prompting the Hermes family to set up a holding company against a possible takeover.