SAIL AWAY: Louis Vuitton, principal sponsor of the next America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain, is bound to get lots of brand exposure in the long run-up to the main event in 2007. Last Thursday, at a gala dinner at the Louis Vuitton Travel Museum in suburban Paris, Vuitton president Yves Carcelle and race organizers said the first regatta, bearing the Louis Vuitton banner, will be held Sept. 5 to 11 in Marseilles, France, one of the cities that bid to host sailing’s most prestigious event. In October, Valencia is slated to host two races, and more are scheduled in 2005 and 2006 before the actual Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup events the following year. Organizers likened the program to a play that unfolds in multiple acts. On the merchandising front, some new LV Cup products are in development and are expected to be unveiled this summer. The 2004 races coincide with Vuitton’s 150th anniversary. — Miles Socha

HOME RUN: French retailer Groupe Galeries Lafayette reported a 3.2 percent rise in operating income to $350 million, or 284.6 million euros, on revenues of $6.8 billion, or 5.53 billion euros, up 1.1 percent, for the year ended Dec. 31, 2003. Net income shot up 31.5 percent to $199.1 million, or 161.9 million euros. (Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange.) The net was bolstered by a sale of shares in the Casino supermarket chain. At a news conference, co-chairmen Philippe Houze and Philippe Lemonine said the group’s sales improved in the fourth quarter after losing ground in the middle of the year. Sales at the flagship Boulevard Haussmann store in Paris fell 5.8 percent as tourism dropped and the euro gained value against U.S., Japanese and Chinese currencies. Houze said the group’s recently opened Lafayette Maison home store was exceeding sales targets. “We’ve had to close the doors several times for too many people,” he said, adding that overall department store sales were up 3 percent in the first two months of the year. Besides its Galeries Lafayette department stores, the group runs the BHV home improvement stores and a financial services arm. It also has a 50 percent stake in the Monoprix supermarket chain. — Robert MurphySINGH’S NEW LUCK: Shareholders of the U.K.’s New Look fast-fashion manufacturer and retailer have given their overwhelming approval to a bid from Tom Singh to buy it. Singh, currently a non-executive director at the company, and New Look’s shareholder of reference, teamed up with backers Apax and Permira to value the company at about $1.28 billion. Last week, after the shareholders’ vote, it was announced that New Look will be delisted from the stock market on April 5. Singh, whose family already owns 28 percent of the firm, increased his offer last October to $6.38, or 3.48 pounds (converted at current exchange), per share. Only one shareholder, Fidelity, a British fund manager, lodged a protest against Singh’s bid.

It was also announced that Stephen Sunnucks, New Look’s chief executive, will leave the company in April. He will be succeeded by Phil Wrigley, who is managing director of New Look.

New Look is the U.K.’s third-largest women’s wear retailer and has more than 700 stores in the U.K. and France. The latest flagship opened on Oxford Street in London in late August. — Ellen Burney

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