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PPR Adds 3% to Gucci Stake

PARIS — Talk about a luxury layaway plan.<br><br>Continuing to cut the size of the Gucci Group NV bill coming due in April 2004, French retail giant Pinault-Printemps-Redoute said Friday that a PPR affiliate had acquired 2.95 million Gucci...

PARIS — Talk about a luxury layaway plan.

This story first appeared in the January 27, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Continuing to cut the size of the Gucci Group NV bill coming due in April 2004, French retail giant Pinault-Printemps-Redoute said Friday that a PPR affiliate had acquired 2.95 million Gucci shares in a series of transactions that lifted PPR’s Gucci stake by 3 percent to 58.2 percent.

Also, PPR said it entered into a purchase plan with Credit Agricole Indosuez Cheuvreux to acquire up to 3 million more shares in Gucci in the coming months, which would lift its stake in the firm above 61 percent. CAIC is authorized to buy the shares on the New York and Euronext Amsterdam stock exchanges between Jan. 28 and April 4 of this year. The purchases can be made on even-numbered days only. U.S. purchases must be made at prices of $95.25 per share or less and only when the dollar-euro exchange rate is above $1.03 per euro. The strength of the euro adds to PPR’s savings in these transactions.

The maximum purchase price for shares bought in Amsterdam is 92.5 euros which, at Friday’s exchange rate of about $1.08 per euro, would be the equivalent of $100.29.

If PPR were to buy all 3 million Gucci shares at Friday’s closing price, it would have cost about $281.6 million. Gucci shares closed up 99 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $93.85 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange as the equity markets closed the week on a decidedly sour note.

As reported, PPR has pledged to buy all shares of Gucci it doesn’t own in 2004 for $101.50 each. Any purchases made for less than that amount represent savings to PPR. For instance, PPR spent about $266 million for 2.77 million shares bought as part of its most recent purchases, $15.3 million less than they would have commanded as part of the April 2004 buyout.

The completed and planned transactions were reported in a Schedule 13D filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission and follow stock purchases that in recent months had raised PPR’s stake in Gucci to 55.2 percent.

Also Friday, in a move PPR characterized as unrelated, Gucci said it would buy back 3.5 million of its shares, or about 3.5 percent of its capital, between Jan. 27 and April 30. The company said it would temporarily hold the shares in its treasury, reissuing them to employees upon exercise of their stock options.

At current market prices, the move would cost $328.5 million. Gucci said it would use its financial assets to fund the purchase.