PARIS — In a televised interview, France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire defended the involvement of the country’s foreign affairs minister in LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s soured deal to purchase Tiffany & Co.
“I don’t have any particular comment to make on this subject. [The French minister of Europe and foreign affairs] Jean-Yves Le Drian made a decision that seemed right to him — he wrote that letter,” said Le Maire, referring to a government request that LVMH postpone its planned acquisition of the American jeweler until next year.
“It’s the role of the minister of foreign affairs to take all the measures he deems necessary to protect French interests,” he continued, speaking on television channel French 2 Monday.
The French luxury giant last week said it won’t likely be able to complete its $16.2 billion acquisition of the American jeweler after the government asked it to defer the transaction beyond Jan. 6, 2021. The request was made in the wake of a U.S. threat to slap tariffs on a range of French products in retaliation for French plans to tax American technology companies.
LVMH executives have bristled at suggestions that LVMH lobbied the French government to help it find a loophole to call off the Tiffany transaction.
Tiffany, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit against LVMH in Delaware’s Court of Chancery aimed at compelling the French luxury giant to stick to the merger agreement.
Le Maire steered the interview to the subject of a digital tax, stressing his intentions to pursue those plans, which are at the root of the French-American trade dispute.
“What I’m doing and will continue to do and what I did last week, actually, is push for an effective tax of digital activities, because digital actors are the big winners of the economic crisis and it’s high time they paid their fair share of taxes,” Le Maire said.
The minister last week said he would push for a tax of the so-called Gafa companies — Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon — at the European level in the first half of next year if nothing results from international negotiations through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.