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UPDATE 1-Richemont seeks to buy UK's Net-a-Porter

* Offer values equity of Net-a-Porter at 350 mln pounds

* Richemont already owns some 33 pct of issue share capital

(Adds details, background, analyst comment)

ZURICH, April 1 (Reuters) - Swiss luxury goods maker Richemont CFR.VX is seeking to buy the 67 percent of UK online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter it does not already own, bolstering its position in luxury internet shopping.

Richemont's move comes as speculation heats up that luxury goods companies with strong balance sheets, such as Swatch Group UHR.VX and Hermes HRMS.PA, are likely to pounce on targets as the sector recovers. [ID:nLDE62T0XO]

“If you believe that the internet for luxury goods is going to be anywhere like the internet already is for high street retail, it looks like a good bit of business,” Kepler Capital Markets analyst Jon Cox said.

Richemont’s offer, which values the equity of Net-a-Porter at 350 million pounds, has the backing of the British group’s management. Founder Natalie Massenet will stay on as executive chairman, Richemont said on Thursday.

Richemont, which had a net cash position of 1.4 billion euros ($1.9 billion) at 31 December 2009, said the offer for Net-a-Porter becomes unconditional on or after April 1 and after this point Richemont is entitled to buy the remaining shares from other shareholders.

Net-a-Porter Limited’s turnover for the financial year ended 31 January 2010 was around 120 million pounds ($181 million) and it has around 600 staff, Richemont said. Net-a-Porter Limited owns Net-a-Porter.com, which features collections from more than 300 top global designers.

Richemont, the group behind Cartier jewellery and Chloe handbags as well as top-end watchbrands such as Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre, is controlled by South Africa’s Rupert family.

Johann Rupert, who is already Richemont’s executive chairman, tightened his grip on the group on Thursday when he officially started work as its chief executive, replacing Norbert Platt who is stepping down for health reasons. [ID:nLD701185] (Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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