By  on December 8, 2010

PARIS — Hermès has filed a request with France’s market regulator AMF to be exempted from the obligation to launch an initial public offering for the company after grouping more than 50 percent of its capital into a nonlisted holding company, an Hermès spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The company made the move after a family meeting last Friday to discuss how to fend off a potential takeover by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which in October surprised the market by revealing it had built a 17.1 percent stake in the maker of Birkin bags and silk scarves.

Hermès subsequently clarified that the creation of the nonlisted holding company was conditional on the AMF granting it a full exemption from rules that oblige anyone crossing the threshold of a third of capital or voting rights to bid for the remaining shares on the market.

Lawyers to the heirs of founder Thierry Hermès consider that they already control the firm de facto, since the three family branches — Dumas, Puech and Guerrand — collectively own more than 70 percent of capital, said Colette Neuville, a proponent of minority shareholders’ rights who has met with the Hermès legal team.

Neuville, president of the French Association for Minority Shareholders (ADAM), has called on the AMF to turn down the request and is threatening to appeal any decision in favor of Hermès on the grounds that it will unfairly penalize holders of the roughly 10 percent of the company’s capital that is freely traded.

The AMF has granted dozens of similar exemptions in recent years and is expected to reach a decision within weeks, a spokeswoman for the regulator said.

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