* Tony Blair could help LVMH penetrate emerging markets
* LVMH has a history of hiring politicians
By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS, Jan 12 Tony Blair's expected appointment
as adviser to LVMH (LVMH.PA), confirmed by sources close to the
French luxury goods group, could help it penetrate tough yet
promising markets such as India, analysts said on Tuesday.
The former British Prime Minister, a friend of LVMH boss
Bernard Arnault, is now free to pursue other commitments having
been passed over for the EU presidency in November.
Even if he already advises JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) and Zurich
Financial ZURN.VX, Blair has long been discussing the
possibility of turning his friendship into a business
relationship with LVMH, one of the sources close the luxury
"It is a logical thing for him (Blair) to do," the source
Final details are being discussed and an announcement could
be made soon, another source close to the group told Reuters on
LVMH owns the leather goods maker Louis Vuitton, one of the
first Western luxury brands to penetrate China, as well as
champagne house Moet & Chandon, Hennessy cognac and Fred, the
Though few know if Blair has any luxury or fashion flair,
investors said his clout and first class network could help LVMH
develop its presence in emerging markets, on which it has staked
future growth for the next decade.
"Blair could help LVMH open up new markets, get necessary
authorisations and resolve complex issues," said Luca Solca,
luxury analyst at Bernstein in London.
With its fast growing number of high net worth individuals,
India is one of the world's biggest untapped luxury markets
after China and it is a country where Blair could make a
difference, analysts said.
India, potentially worth $15 billion in annual luxury goods
sales according to analysts, has been the laggard of emerging
luxury markets because of lack of retail space, excessive red
tape, high duties, poor infrastructure and the capping of
foreign ownership at 51 percent since 2006.
Given the political opposition, the Indian government has
been reluctant to open the country's retail sector more.
But if several analysts welcomed the expected appointment,
saying it would raise LVMH's profile and stature worldwide,
others expressed scepticism about Blair.
"For me, aside from the political clout, I don't see what
Blair will bring LVMH. He's got an unknown track record in terms
of business development," one London-based luxury analyst said,
declining to be named.
Meanwhile, some British politicians have already jumped on
the news, reported in Sunday papers, to attack Blair.
"If a minister knows that by maintaining a close friendship
while in office they stand to benefit when they leave office,
that compromises government," Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb
said about Blair.
"And we all know that there have been plenty of concerns
recently about the way parliament operates."
Blair's spokesman was not immediately available for comment
and LVMH declined to comment.
POLITICS MEAN BUSINESS
Blair is one of many politicians who have successfully
turned their address books and international cachet into
well-paid speeches and part-time jobs.
Shortly after leaving office, former German Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder became chairman of the North European Gas
Pipeline, controlled by Russian state-run gas export monopoly
Former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar now teaches
various seminars on European politics at Georgetown University
and sits on the board of Rupert Murdoch's media group News Corp
(NWSA.O), which owns The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones
Newswires and the Fox broadcast network.
Aznar also runs a conservative Spanish think tank called
Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies.
But if they are well remunerated, business ties can also
come at a cost. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, a past
master at the art of making expensive speeches, had to divulge
all donations from foreign countries to his foundations before
his wife Hillary was appointed Secretary of State last year.
Clinton has amassed a fortune since leaving the White House
in early 2001 and is believed to be worth about $100 million.
He has raised millions of dollars for his presidential
library and foundations, with donations coming from some foreign
governments and individuals.
(Editing by Louise Heavens)