By  on July 31, 2013

PARIS — Qatari-backed investment fund Divine Investments SA, or Disa, said Wednesday that it has completed its acquisition of French retailer Printemps.

The Luxembourg-based company, held by private investors, has acquired a 70 percent stake from Deutsche Bank’s RREEF and the remaining 30 percent from Italy’s Borletti Group. The planned deal was originally revealed in February.

The transaction was greenlighted by France’s Competition Authority on July 22, Disa said.

“Divine Investments plans to continue the development of the Printemps Group both in Paris and in the rest of France and to contribute to the international development of this symbol of French fashion and luxury,” the firm added.

RREEF Real Estate, which was recently rechristened Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, or DeAWM, bought Printemps in a joint venture with Borletti Group in October 2006 from Kering, the conglomerate then known as PPR, and launched a wide-ranging program of renovations destined to position it as a luxury retailer.

RELATED STORY: Printemps Seeks to Reassure Staff Ahead of Sale >>

Gianluca Muzzi, head of real estate, Europe (ex-Germany) at DeAWM, said, “The sale of Printemps marks one of the largest and most high-profile transactions in the French market. The multifaceted aspects of this investment demonstrate the depth of our real estate team’s transaction and asset management expertise.”

Pierre Cherki, head of alternatives and real assets, which includes the real estate business, added, “This transaction is a testament to the strength of our global platform and our commitment to sourcing compelling deals and optimizing returns on investment on behalf of our clients.”

Neither officials from Disa nor Printemps were available for further comment, according to their spokespeople. Officials at Borletti Group could not be reached, nor could Bernard Demarcq, secretary general of the UGICT-CGT labor union, which opposed the sale.

Printemps chief executive officer Paolo de Cesare, who is due to remain in place, said in May the new owners have backed a five-year expansion plan, worth 270 million euros, or $346 million, which is expected to create 500 jobs. The retailer plans to open three Printemps stores, in addition to two units for its urban apparel chain Citadium, in the next few years.

The management of the French department store chain also sought to quell union opposition by unveiling a series of measures designed to reassure its staff and pave the way for the transaction. De Cesare said the Qatari investors have pledged not to cut any jobs for two years, putting to rest union fears that the change in ownership will result in several hundred layoffs. Printemps also offered a pay increase of 3 percent this summer as part of its annual salary negotiations with staff.

Labor representatives had criticized the financial conditions of the deal as opaque and called for the public prosecutor to launch a probe into the transaction.

Printemps posted sales of 1.5 billion euros, or $1.95 billion, between April 2012 and March 2013, up 5.7 percent year-on-year. It has forecast revenues will hit the symbolic threshold of 2 billion euros, or $2.65 billion at current exchange, by 2017.

Dollar rates are calculated at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.

Revenues for the 2012-13 financial year were fueled by the Paris flagship on Boulevard Haussmann, which posted a 14 percent rise thanks to the strong growth of sales to foreign visitors. Sales in the chain’s regional stores decreased by 3.2 percent, due in part to renovations in Strasbourg, Toulon and Rennes.

De Cesare said Printemps is targeting sales growth of 6 to 7 percent for the current financial year. It is banking on the positive impact of recent renovations to its fashion floors at the Haussmann flagship, and a strong sales start at the store it plans to open in the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris in February 2014.

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