By and  on March 29, 2010

PARIS — Nick Hayek, chief executive officer of Swatch Group AG, the world’s largest watch maker, on Monday denied market reports the company was interested in purchasing Italian jeweler Bulgari.

Shares in Bulgari SpA rose more than 5 percent in early trading on the Milan Stock Exchange after Hayek told German weekly Focus that Bulgari was one of several large brands with strong potential for development. However, he added Swatch Group was not interested in launching any hostile takeovers.

In a statement issued by his spokeswoman Beatrice Howald on Monday, Hayek clarified his comments, saying Swatch was interested in acquiring other brands, but was not in talks with Bulgari at present.

“There are no negotiations either in front of or behind the scenes,” Hayek stated. “Swatch Group has expressed no desire to buy Bulgari, and Bulgari has not expressed any desire either to be purchased by Swatch Group.”

In a separate statement, Bulgari said it had very good business relations with Swatch “based on a supplier-customer collaboration.”

“The two companies have never discussed any kind of transactions on shares. The Bulgari family is not interested in selling,” it added.

Swatch shares have gained in recent weeks on speculation that it will make an acquisition this year after unexpectedly cutting its dividend for 2009.

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