PARIS — Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said Thursday he was feeling “reasonably optimistic” about the outlook for 2021, as global vaccination campaigns herald the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting, which was held online for the second consecutive year after France entered its third nationwide lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, the French billionaire said that his luxury conglomerate emerged from the crisis stronger.
Reflecting investor confidence, LVMH’s market capitalization this week crossed the threshold of 300 billion euros, having tripled since 2017. The share price rose to a record high on Wednesday after the company reported that revenues jumped 32 percent in the first quarter, fueled by its key fashion and leather goods division, which saw sales soar 52 percent year-on-year.
“Even if the future is uncertain with regard to the pandemic, one can be reasonably optimistic. The hope of vaccination allows us to contemplate an end to this health crisis, and I’m convinced that LVMH is in an excellent position to build on the recovery the world is hoping for in 2021 to further reinforce our leadership in the global market of high-quality products,” he said.
Arnault said he was guided throughout the crisis by the motto of World War II French army general Jean de Lattre de Tassigny: “ne pas subir,” which translates roughly as “never give in.”
“I wanted to transmit this spirit of resistance against fate to the entire group. A year on, I can say proudly that LVMH has proved remarkably resistant,” he said.
“Crises make us stronger. Our houses have been through a number of them over the last decades, and they always teach us valuable lessons that provide a powerful foundation for the years of growth that follow. As we have done before, we will successfully transform the current challenge into success,” Arnault added.
Questions submitted online by shareholders ranged from the impact of this month’s frosts in France, which have ravaged the nation’s wine industry, to the integration of Tiffany & Co., after LVMH in January completed its $15.8 billion acquisition of the U.S. jeweler, the largest deal in the history of the luxury sector.
Putting last year’s bitter legal wrangles with Tiffany behind him, Arnault reiterated his confidence in the brand. “It’s an American icon. It’s a brand synonymous with love, whose famous blue box is recognized the world over. I’m convinced that we will make it shine even more,” he said.
Antonio Belloni, group managing director of LVMH, said it was too early to evaluate the impact of the weather disaster on the company’s Champagne brands, though he noted the sector was somewhat protected from annual variations because most Champagne is made by blending wines from different years.
In response to a now-annual question from animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Belloni reiterated that LVMH has no plans to stop using fur and exotic skins, provided they are responsibly sourced. “We believe in freedom of choice, both for our customers and for our houses,” he said.
He added that LVMH was also exploring the production of vegetable leather alternatives such as cactus leather produced by start-up Desserto, one of the finalists for the LVMH Innovation Award last year.
Belloni declined to give a definitive opening date for La Samaritaine. The department store was originally due to open in April 2020 after being closed for 15 years, and will now open gradually beginning this summer, Belloni said.