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UPDATE 1-Exor puts best foot forward with 24% stake in Louboutin

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ROME, March 8 (Reuters) - Exor, the holding company of Italy’s Agnelli family, on Monday unveiled its second luxury sector deal in three months, investing 541 million euros ($643 million) in shoemaker Christian Louboutin.

The two companies said Exor would take a 24% holding in the brand famous for its stiletto shoes with bright-red soles and worn by film stars, musicians and royals.

The Louboutin deal follows Exor’s December investment of about 80 million euros to become the largest shareholder in Chinese luxury group Shang Xia, which was co-founded by France’s Hermes.

Shares in Exor rose 3.2% by 1152 GMT, outperforming a 2% rise for Italy’s blue-chip index.

Exor is the single largest shareholder in luxury sports car maker Ferrari and Stellantis, the auto group born in January from the merger of Fiat Chrysler and rival PSA.

The Agnelli’s holding company had said it would use its war chest, boosted by the Stellantis deal’s cash, to diversify further away from the car and industrial vehicle sector.

DIVERSIFIED PORTFOLIO

Analysts had suggested it may look to create a luxury conglomerate around Ferrari, but an Exor spokesman said the Louboutin deal was not part of any such strategy and that Exor’s recent investments in the sector each had their own rationale.

“Exor remains a family owned investment company with a diversified portfolio,” the spokesman said.

Exor has received about 840 million euros in extraordinary dividends as part of the Stellantis merger accords.

The joint statement from Exor and Louboutin said the partnership is aimed at speeding the next phase of the shoemaker’s development by boosting its distribution network and expanding its digital and e-commerce capabilities.

Founded in 1991, Louboutin has 150 directly operated retail stores in 30 different countries.

“There is significant scope to develop the Christian Louboutin brand’s presence, notably via further geographic expansion, particularly in China,” the statement said.

The partnership will also help to strengthen the Louboutin’s governance structure, with Exor nominating two of the seven members of the shoemaker’s board of directors alongside the company’s founders.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year. ($1 = 0.8410 euros)

Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari and Giulia Segreti Writing by Valentina Za Editing by Louise Heavens and David Goodman

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