PARIS — LVMH has again quietly snapped up shares in Hermès.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s first-half financial report shows that it raised its stake in the maker of Birkin bags and silk scarves to 23.1 percent as of June 30, 2013, from 22.6 percent as of Dec. 30, 2012.
“It was an opportunistic move,” LVMH chief financial officer Jean-Jacques Guiony told analysts in a conference call on Friday. “It doesn’t say anything about our attitude in the future, so you cannot extrapolate that for the rest of the year.”
The conglomerate said it had bought the shares on the market, though with a very limited free float, the purchase is likely to fuel speculation that some Hermès family members have been offloading their shares.
It will also stoke the ongoing battle between the two luxury giants, embroiled in a series of court cases since LVMH surprised markets in October 2010 by announcing it had bought a 17.1 percent stake in Hermès in 2010 via cash-settled equity swaps that allowed it to circumvent regulations requiring firms to declare share purchases.
France’s stock market regulator, AMF, earlier this month slapped a record fine on LVMH over the way it acquired the initial shares. LVMH has appealed the ruling.
Executives at the family-controlled Hermès have repeatedly urged LVMH to reduce its shareholding. Bernard Arnault, the chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH, earlier this year said LVMH had acquired its Hermès stake “unexpectedly” and reiterated that his intentions toward the luxury firm were peaceful.
Guiony said LVMH had no intention of selling its Hermès shares. “There is no particular need on our side to monetize this shareholding in order to fuel the growth of our other business, and to be frank, we are pretty pleased with the performance of the Hermès business,” he said.