By  on October 20, 2006

PARIS — Like the shoppers who fuel his luxury empire, Bernard Arnault is in a mood to spend.

On Thursday, the French titan said he would team up with longtime business ally Albert Frère to acquire mainly European companies via a new fund of 1 billion euros, or $1.25 billion at current exchange.

Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is creating the joint investment fund through his Groupe Arnault family holding and Frère's Belgium-based NPM/CNP (Nationale Portefeuille Maatschappij/Compagnie Nationale a Portefeuille).

The billionaire partners said they were already studying "several" possible acquisitions, but declined to identify them, nor give any indication what sectors might be considered. However, a Frère spokesman noted the partners would consider minority and majority stakes, and listed and unlisted companies.

Frère, one of Europe's most active dealmakers, has investments in such varied industries as media, finance and energy.

Arnault and Frère, who sits on LVMH's board, have a long history of joint deals. In 1998, they teamed up to buy Château Cheval Blanc, one of the top Saint-Emilion vineyards. The following year, Frère bought a majority stake in British retailer Joseph, and Arnault's LVMH retained a minority interest.

Earlier this year, Arnault and Frère teamed up to buy another Saint-Emilion vineyard, Château La Tour du Pin Figeac.

Although LVMH has slowed the pace of its acquisitions, with its last big purchase in 2004 when it snapped up the whisky maker Glenmorangie, Arnault has continued to make deals via various investment arms. L Capital, a private equity fund sponsored by LVMH, last July acquired a majority stake in Piazza Sempione, a high-end Italian fashion manufacturer. Over the past five years, L Capital has completed 16 investments in everything from fashion accessories to food and garden furniture.

Groupe Arnault also holds stakes in LVMH and its holding company, Christian Dior SA.

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