November 3, 2010 / 8:54 AM / 9 years ago

Luxury group Hermes tells LVMH to back off -paper

PARIS, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Executives at French luxury group Hermes (HRMS.PA) called on larger rival LVMH (LVMH.PA) to withdraw from its capital, saying they saw the surprise purchase of a 17 percent stake last month as unfriendly.

Patrick Thomas and Bertrand Puech told Le Figaro the family-owned company was united in its rejection of LVMH’s attempt to get involved in the group, known for its printed silk scarves and 4,000 euro ($5,577) crocodile handbags.

“The family has clearly and unanimously said: If you want to be friendly, Mister Arnault, you need to withdraw,” Puech, a fifth-generation descendant of founder Thierry Hermes, was quoted as saying in the newspaper’s Wednesday edition.

He said it was unlikely that Bernard Arnault, head of world No. 1 luxury group LVMH, would one day control Hermes.

Arnault’s arrival would not change the way Hermes runs its business and Hermes head Thomas said the group did not require any help or support, pointing out that the cultures of both groups diverged too much.

“This culture (of craftmanship and strong traditions) is hardly compatible with one of a big group. It is not a financial battle, it’s a cultural battle,” he said.

Meanwhile, the group will await the French market regulator’s decision on whether LVMH’s stake purchase happened legally.

Arnault has said he does not plan to bid for Hermes.

The family owns about 73 percent of Hermes’ share capital, and its partnership structure means no change in contral can take place without family agreement. Its bylaws allow the company to use poison pills in the event of a hostile bid.

($1=.7172 Euro)

(Reporting by Caroline Jacobs; Editing by Hans Peters)

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