By and  on November 6, 2007

PARIS — Luxury titan Bernard Arnault has triumphed in his quest to own French financial daily Les Echos.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said Monday it signed an agreement to buy Groupe Les Echos SA from Britain's Pearson plc for 240 million euros in cash, or $348 million at current exchange rates. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.

LVMH and Pearson said the sale agreement includes measures to protect editorial independence and jobs at Les Echos, whose rank and file have been up in arms since June, when LVMH entered exclusive negotiations with Pearson.

On Monday, Paris' Tribunal de Grande Instance said Pearson's consultation with Les Echos' works council was satisfactory, clearing the way for the transaction. It includes the newspaper, Web site, the business magazine Enjeux and other financial information services.

Groupe Les Echos posted 2006 revenues of 126 million euros, or $158.2 million at average exchange rates, and profits of 10 million euros, or $12.5 million.

LVMH also owns competing French business daily La Tribune, which it plans to sell. La Tribune is expected to reveal later this week that it has entered into exclusive negotiations with one of four European media companies vying for the title.

LVMH's other media holdings include the Investir financial weekly, the monthly Connaissance des Arts art magazine and the Radio Classique music station.

The luxury giant, owner of such brands as Fendi, Parfums Christian Dior and Dom Perignon, has recently slowed its pace of acquisitions, especially in fashion and leather goods, as it concentrates on organic growth. Last May, it bought a majority stake in Wen Jun Distillery, a Chinese maker of premium white spirits.

And it also isn't shying away from disposing of brands. LVMH last week sold a 90 percent stake in Omas, the Bologna, Italy-based pen maker, to the Chinese Xinyu Hengdeli Group. Listed on the Hong Kong bourse, Xinyu Hengdeli Group wants to exploit its leadership in the distribution of luxury timepieces in Asia, especially in Greater China, to boost the Omas business.

The price of the transaction was not disclosed. LVMH will retain the remaining 10 percent.According to a statement, Xinyu Hengdeli Group wants to tap into Omas' artisanal and high-end heritage and round out the refined writing instruments with accessories. Omas, founded in 1925 by Armando Simoni, was acquired by LVMH in 2000 and exports 75 percent of its production.

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