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Hermes Shares Gaining Ground On LVMH Rumor

PARIS — Speculation that LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton could make a bid for Hermès International has helped drive shares of Hermès up 11 percent since December.<BR><BR>The possible bid by LVMH is a theory floated by Merrill...

PARIS — Speculation that LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton could make a bid for Hermès International has helped drive shares of Hermès up 11 percent since December.

The possible bid by LVMH is a theory floated by Merrill Lynch luxury analyst Antoine Colonna in a research note on Monday previewing Hermès’ fourth-quarter sales figures, which are expected to be released on Thursday.

Colonna said he views a potential LVMH bid as unlikely — a view shared by other analysts — but said the LVMH rumor, or the prospect of a special dividend, could explain the increase, which is 8 percent above Merrill Lynch’s core luxury goods index.

Antoine Belge, an analyst at HSBC in Paris, also viewed a bid as unlikely as the Hermès-Dumas family, which owns about 80 percent of outstanding shares, has given no indication it wants to sell.

Mireille Maury, managing director at Hermès, acknowledged the LVMH rumor has wound its way into several analysts’ reports. She dismissed it as groundless, stressing the family has no intention of selling.

In any event, analysts are on the lookout for signs of rebound at Hermès, which posted weak third-quarter figures due partly to production issues.

This story first appeared in the February 8, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.