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government-trade
government-trade

LVMH Confident as Stock Market Probe Moves Forward

Company surprised markets by revealing in October 2010 that it had amassed a 17.1 percent stake in Hermès via cash-settled equity swaps.

PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said it was confident in the outcome of an investigation by France’s stock market regulator AMF into its purchase of Hermès stock after the head of the authority said he planned to refer the inquiry to its sanctions commission early next year.

“The procedure is running its normal course and this is no way affects the final decision. LVMH has expressed its confidence in the outcome of this procedure,” said a spokesman for LVMH.

AMF president Gérard Rameix made the comments to news channel BFM TV, according to French news agency AFP. The original interview was not immediately available for viewing on BFM’s Web site.

LVMH surprised markets by revealing in October 2010 that it had amassed a 17.1 percent stake in Hermès via cash-settled equity swaps that allowed it to circumvent the usual market rules requiring firms to declare share purchases. It has since raised its stake to 22.3 percent.

The AMF in November 2010 launched an investigation to determine if LVMH respected market rules, but has given no indication of when it expects to conclude the probe.

Hermès and LVMH, meanwhile, are taking their battle over the contested move to court.

Hermès confirmed it has lodged a complaint against LVMH which, according to a source familiar with the issue, accuses the world’s largest luxury conglomerate of insider trading, collusion and manipulating stock prices. LVMH in turn has filed a suit against Hermès for “slander, blackmail and unfair competition.”

The Paris prosecutor’s office is examining the Hermès complaint and has referred the matter for opinion to the AMF. Rameix indicated that the authority would tell the court it did not find evidence to support the charges, according to the AFP report.