IN BRIEF

PAVING TRADE ROAD TO MOROCCO: President Bush added Morocco to the list of countries with which he would like to forge free-trade agreements. In a news conference Tuesday with King Mohammed of Morocco at the White House, Bush said he would like to pursue a trade pact with the country, considered an important ally among Arab countries. Imports from Morocco totaled 23.76 million square meters equivalent with a value of $90.9 million for the year ending February, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

FIRST WORD FROM PPR: Pinault-Printemps-Redoute’s first-quarter sales fell 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2002 and dropped 1.7 percent on a comparable-store basis. Sales in North America, which account for about 20 percent of the total, slipped 10 percent after declining 15 percent in the final two months of 2001. PPR, which owns 51 percent of Gucci Group, reported that quarterly sales at French department store group Printemps inched up 1.3 percent as the luxury accessories department at the Boulevard Haussmann flagship logged a 19.4 percent increase.

SWATCH BUYS DIAL PRODUCER: Switzerland’s Swatch Group said Tuesday it would acquire outright Rubattel & Wayermann from owner Michel Theurillat for an undisclosed sum. Theurillat will remain head of the firm. Founded in 1890, Rubattel & Wayermann manufactures watch dials and is based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Swatch said Rubattel & Wayermann would produce dials for high-end watchmakers within and outside the Swatch Group. Swatch brands include Breguet, Longines, Omega, Rado and Swatch.

TOD’S CASH: In a bid to increase free float and stock liquidity, Tod’s SpA chief Diego Della Valle and his brother Andrea, vice president, sold 2,844,700 ordinary shares to institutional investors at $46.11 each. (The figure is converted from euros at current exchange rates.) With the sale, the Della Valle brothers reduced their stake to approximately 62.2 percent from 71.6 percent, while outstanding shares rose to 38 percent from 28 percent of capital. The remaining shares held by the Della Valle brothers will be locked up for nine months. Merrill Lynch International handled the transaction. Tod’s closed at $50.64, off 34 cents, in trading Tuesday on the Italian Bourse.

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