By  on May 24, 2018

Samsonite International SA has applied to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to have shares of the company’s stock resume trading on Friday at 9 a.m.Trading of shares of the world’s largest travel luggage firm was halted at 11:18 a.m. on Thursday at the company’s request pending clarification of a report that criticized the company’s business practices. Samsonite shares were down 9.8 percent to 30.70 Hong Kong dollars before trading stopped.The report was issued by Blue Orca Capital, a new investment fund in Texas. Blue Orca was started by Soren Aandahl, who has a short-selling background. His fund, which operates as an activist investor, is looking at the luggage firm as its first target. Short sellers profit when a company’s share price goes down. In the Blue Orca report, questions were raised over whether Samsonite really qualified as a premium luxury brand. The report also questioned the company’s accounting practices.Samsonite on Thursday acknowledged the report, and emphasized that the “allegations in the report are one-sided and misleading, and the conclusions drawn in the report are incorrect.” The luggage firm also said it would provide additional information in “due course, as appropriate. The company reserves its right to take legal action against Blue Orca Capital and/or those responsible for the report.”Timothy Parker, Samsonite’s chairman, said, “It is important for shareholders to be aware that the report (by its own admission) contains the opinions of a short seller whose interests may not be aligned with those of shareholders in general, and that it may be intended specifically to undermine confidence in the company and its management and to harm its reputation.”Parker also said he has “full confidence” in "Ramesh’s [Tainwala] capabilities as [chief executive officer], and in the broader management team.”Ramesh Tainwala was alleged in the report to have misrepresented himself as a doctor, and the report noted that he does not have a doctorate degree.Jesse Shwayder founded Samsonite in 1910 in Denver under the name Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Co. The company changed its name to Samsonite in 1965, a nod to its best-selling, tapered suitcase that was introduced to the marketplace in 1939. After several owners, the company completed a $1.25 billion initial public offering in 2011 in Hong Kong.The company has made several acquisitions over the years. Brands now under its umbrella include its core midmarket Samsonite brand, Hartmann, Lipault and Tumi. It also owns American Tourister and Gregory.And while the high-end brand Hartmann was acquired for just $35 million in 2012, it was the company’s acquisition of luxury brand Tumi for $1.8 billion in cash in 2016 that became the transformative deal for Samsonite. At the time, Tainwala said the company planned to use learnings from Tumi’s expertise with carry-on bags and business travel gear to expand Samsonite’s own range of products, which primarily has evolved into a wholesale-driven business in Asia and Europe. The company also hoped to apply’s Samsonite’s expertise in hard-sided suitcases to expand Tumi’s lightweight hard-sided luggage.Under the creative direction of Victor Sanz, Tumi has expanded its product line so that the brand’s bags, while still serving business travel needs, has become a fashion lifestyle choice. And it has also expanded its offerings for its women’s bag line. Two collections are due out in July for fall. The brand last week opened its second store in Milan.Samsonite on May 14 posted first-quarter results that said its profits rose 18.6 percent to $43.9 million, or 3 cents a diluted share, for the period ended March 31, up from $37 million, or 2 cents, a year ago. Net sales rose 21.1 percent to $888.2 million, versus $733.5 million a year ago. Figures for last week’s earnings report were issued by the company in U.S. dollars.

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