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financial

LVMH Buying Hublot

French luxury group in deal to buy Swiss watchmaker, adding to fast-growing timepiece portfolio that includes Tag Heuer and Zenith.

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Jean-Claude Biver

Jean-Claude Biver

Photo By WWD Staff

Luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said early Thursday that it reached an agreement to acquire Switzerland’s Hublot watch group from founder Carlo Crocco and a firm controlled by Jean-Claude Biver, who’s managed the brand since 2004.

 

During a press conference to discuss the acquisition, LVMH said it would lift the brand's profile in Asia and Japan and expand its retail footprint. Biver, chief executive officer of Hublot, noted the brand is in talks to open stores in New York, Moscow and Geneva.

 

LVMH declined to pinpoint the acquisition price, but said it was roughly two times 2008 sales and 12 times 2008 EBIT.

 

In 2007, Hublot posted sales of 151 million Swiss francs, or $126 million, and operating profits of 31 million Swiss francs, or $25.9 million.

 

Dollar figures are converted from Swiss francs at average 2007 exchange rates.

 

LVMH described the Hublot brand as “highly complementary” to its existing watch portfolio, which includes Tag Heuer, Zenith, Dior Montres and Louis Vuitton.

 

Last week, in disclosing its sales for the first quarter, LVMH reported that watches and jewelry, while still its smallest division in revenues, registered its largest sales gains. Organic revenues rose 19 percent to 211 million euros, or $316 million.

 

Hublot's distribution is limited to 300 stores worldwide, and price points exceed $250,000 for some of its more specialized pieces, such as elements of its Big Bang collection that uses special metals and complex technical processes.

 

Philippe Pascal, ceo of LVMH’s watches and jewelry unit, commented, “Hublot is a strategic and very complementary acquisition. Its high-end positioning, selective distribution, financial performance and growth potential make Hublot a ‘rising star.’  Hublot will strengthen our watches and jewelry business group which, over the last three years, has been growing strongly.”

 

He added that Biver and his management team would “continue on this remarkable journey and contribute his considerable expertise to our development in this promising sector.”

 

For complete coverage, see Friday’s issue of WWD.