* Says move would restore stock market float
* Dismisses LVMH CEO Arnault's conciliatory tone
* LVMH spox declines comment
* Hermes shares down 0.9 percent, LVMH up 0.1 percent
(Adds LVMH 'no comment', investor reaction)
By Christian Plumb and Blaise Robinson
PARIS, May 30 The chairman of French luxury
group Hermes (HRMS.PA) wants bigger rival LVMH (LVMH.PA), the
champagne-to-leather goods group controlled by Bernard Arnault,
to halve its 21 percent stake, Le Figaro newspaper reported.
"What bothers us is the way they did it," Bernard Puech said
in an interview, referring to LVMH's move last year to build up
its stake. "So we ask them to sell half of their stake to
re-establish our stock market float."
LVMH, the world's biggest luxury group, revealed in December
it had built up its stake in Hermes to above 20 percent.
After LVMH's stake-building, 7 percent of Hermes shares
remain in free float, according to the its 2010 annual report.
To defend itself from what it considered a hostile move by
LVMH, Hermes's controlling family set up a holding company
controlling more than 50 percent of the maker of silk scarves,
watches and high-end handbags.
LVMH spokesman Olivier Labesse would not comment on the
interview, published ahead of Hermes's annual shareholder
meeting on Monday.
Hermes shares were down 0.9 percent by 0925 GMT, while LVMH
was up 0.1 percent.
"In sports, this is called trash talk," said Pierre-Alexis
Dumont, equity portfolio manager at Paris-based OFI Asset
Management. "We should not be reading too much into it. Hermes
is grinding its weapons before the AGM."
Puech, also head of family management company Emile Hermes,
dismissed efforts by LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault to
strike a conciliatory tone.
"After six months, we are the target of incessant attacks of
the kind we have never seen in 174 years, even though LVMH says
its approach to us is friendly," he said. "With friends like
these, who needs enemies?"
(Reporting by Christian Plumb; Editing by Muralikumar
Anantharaman and Dan Lalor)