Byline: Katherine Weisman

PARIS — Le Tanneur & Compagnie, a French leather-goods company, which is one-third owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, plans to raise roughly $9.2 million in a public offering on Paris’s Second Marche set for April 20.
Le Tanneur, which recently announced a licensing deal for handbags and leather goods with Michael Kors, will create 245,000 new shares and offer a total 490,000 shares to the public for between $16.34 and $18.75 per share.
Le Tanneur president Herve Descottes wants to take his company public to pursue international expansion in the U.S. and Japan.
Descottes told WWD the company is about to sign deals for five wholly owned new stores in the U.S., all under the Soco banner borne by the company’s first U.S. store, which opened in Manhattan’s NoLIta section at the end of 1999. The five new units — in the New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., markets — are scheduled to open next fall or winter.
In addition to freestanding stores, Descottes plans to expand the group through wholesaling to U.S. stores and by pursuing more licensing agreements with major international designers, like the one with Michael Kors.
The group also wants to strengthen its market share in Japan, where its lines are sold in 200 doors. Last year, sales to Japan grew 60 percent.
In France, stores operate under the Le Tanneur, Upla and Soco banners corresponding to different brand names distributed by the group. In 1999, Le Tanneur earned just over $1 million on sales of $31.6 million.
The company chose a public offering to raise money — rather than some other financial measure such as a bank loan — for several reasons. For one, going public allows for more liquidity for current shareholders, Descottes said, adding that one unidentified investment fund will be looking to sell its stake soon. He also noted that at his age, 54, he wants to be easily able to sell his shares back to the company.
“Plus, you can raise more funds readily after a public offering. This quotation is just a first step,” Descottes added. Descottes was a former owner of Le Tanneur, under its former corporate name Andrelux, back in the early 1980s.
Following the offering, LVMH’s stake will fall to 27.4 percent from 33.3 percent, while the direct and indirect shareholding of Descottes will be 17.1 percent, down from 30.1 percent.
While Le Tanneur & Cie. became the company’s registered name in 1997, its origins date to 1946 when Andre Rougeayres founded a luxury leather-goods house called Andrelux. By the late 1970s, the firm was producing for fashion houses including Lanvin, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton.
In 1980, Rougeayres sold Andrelux to Herve Descottes, who then acquired several brands throughout the decade, including Soco, Upla and Lorenzo. In 1991, Andrelux became majority-owned by the Vuitton family holding company under former Vuitton chairman Henry Racamier and later became part of Racamier’s luxury goods holding company, Orcofi. In 1997, Andrelux was placed under the French equivalent of Chapter 11 and Descottes was asked by Paris Commercial Court to come back and take over.