PARIS -- The Paris administrative court has reaffirmed that Bernard Arnault must reimburse the French government $59.7 million (338.5 million francs) at current exchange rates, for funds the government gave to Boussac Saint Freres, one of Arnault's earliest acquisitions.

Boussac had received nearly $176 million (1 billion francs) of state assistance from 1982 through 1985. The European Community, on July 15, 1987, decreed this assistance to be in violation of European Community rules on free competition. In February 1990, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ordered the French government to collect 338.5 million francs in damages.

Arnault acquired Boussac in 1984, for the symbolic sum of 1 franc, after the company had gone into receivership. He then sold off the Boussac industrial activities, retaining its retailing interests, which included the Au Bon Marche department store and the Christian Dior fashion house.

A statement from LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, of which Arnault is chairman, said Arnault was considering an appeal.

According to reports in the French press, the ruling does not require Arnault to pay any interest on the reimbursement. The interest on this amountwould have surpassed the amount of the damages, it was reported.

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