A woman walks past a Tiffany & Co. store at a shopping mall in Beijing. The designer boutiques of Manhattan and Paris are feeling the chill of a Chinese economic slowdown that has hammered automakers and other industries. That is jolting brands such as Louis Vuitton and Burberry that increasingly rely on Chinese customers who spend $90 billion a year on jewelry, clothes and other high-end goods. The industry already is facing pressure to keep up as China's big spenders shift to buying more at the spreading networks of luxury outlets in their own countryLuxury Shopping Chill, Beijing, China - 29 Nov 2018

PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is near clinching a deal to buy Tiffany & Co. in a transaction that would surpass $16 billion, topping records as the sector’s largest takeover, according to a flurry of press reports Sunday.

The luxury giant last month confirmed it had offered $120 per share for the fabled American jeweler, but following a weeks-long takeover dance, has raised its proposal to $135 per share, according to a report that originally appeared in the Financial Times Sunday. 

Tiffany and LVMH declined to comment Sunday.

If the deal goes through, LVMH will gain a foothold in the high-end American market as well as significantly bolster its position in jewelry, a sector that has been dominated by rival Compagnie Financière Richemont, which owns Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. 

Tiffany, which is considered one of the few true American luxury labels, has been the subject of takeover talk for years, at times fueled by criticism it was underperforming financially. Critics cite the jeweler’s weaknesses as including an unwieldy retail network and reliance on business in Hong Kong, which has been disrupted by protests. Adding to its challenges is slower Asian tourism to the U.S.

Some analysts have said the deal would make sense for Tiffany, which would benefit from LVMH’s financial firepower and expertise, citing its success with its star jewelry label Bulgari, which it acquired in 2011.

Bernstein analyst Luca Solca, has said that Bulgari has likely gained market share against Richemont star label Cartier.

With Tiffany, LVMH would broaden its consumer base with more affordable price points as well as a stronger position in the U.S., an important market for luxury that only accounts for 9 percent of the group’s watches and jewelry sales, according to Rogerio Fujimori, an analyst with RBC Capital Market.

The rise of digital commerce has increased the need for investments in technology and logistics, deepening the divide between successful and less successful brands in the luxury industry.

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