LVMH and PPR end talks over Gucci

The world’s biggest luxury goods group LVMH and Europe’s largest retailer Pinault Printemps Redoute (PPR) said on Friday that no new talks were under way to solve their bitter dispute over Italian fashion house Gucci, Reuters reported.

LVMH and PPR, Gucci’s two biggest shareholders, this week returned to court in Amsterdam, where the Italian designer is registered, to thrash out allegations of mismanagement at Gucci.

Some press reports have said that a deal between the two French firms was on the cards following a statement in court by LVMH, chaired by French billionaire Bernard Arnault, that it was still prepared to sell its 21% stake in Gucci.

But spokesmen at both companies said on Friday no new proposals were on the table.

PPR, owned by French retail magnate Francois Pinault, paid Gucci $3 billion for a 42% stake in 1999 in a white knight deal to fight off a takeover attempt by LVMH.

Pinault and Arnault, France’s two richest men, have been locked in a dispute over the manner in which PPR obtained its controlling minority stake in Gucci.

LVMH, which built up a 34% stake in what Gucci regarded as a move to take creeping control, saw its stake shrink to 21% as a result of the PPR deal.

‘There are no new negotiations though we have publically declared that we are still prepared to negotiate since the talks broke down,’ an LVMH spokesman said, Reuters reported, adding that position was unchanged. ‘We are still prepared to find an amicable solution; we are still prepared to accept the proposals made as of May/June last year.’

PPR too said on Friday there were no new talks but that it was not hostile to negotiating.

‘PPR has no objections to developing a negotiated solution, however in order to succeed, such a solution would have to adopt a new approach given that the economic and financial environment has changed,’ Reuters reports a PPR spokesman saying.

And he reiterated PPR’s view that the proposals on the table last year were ‘definitely obsolete,’ Reuters reported.

Last summer’s proposal involved an initial public offer at $100 per share and a further one in 18 months to four years’ time at the then market price, plus a control premium determined by independent banks.

Caught in the middle, Gucci said on Friday its concern was to ensure a fair deal for independent shareholders.

The two-tier PPR June proposal was favorable to independent shareholders, but Arnault ultimately rejected it, he added. LVMH says that was because Gucci’s board did not rule that the offer was fair.