Richemont buys rest of Roger Dubuis in watch industry shake-up

Jean-Marc Pontroue, CEO of Roger Dubuis poses for Reuters during an interview at the 'Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie' at Palexpo in Geneva January 17, 2012. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss luxury group Richemont has bought the 40 percent of high-end watchmaker Roger Dubuis it did not already own, with analysts forecasting more small manufacturers will be snapped up by bigger rivals in an industry struggling with weaker demand.

“We now own 100 percent of Roger Dubuis,” Richemont spokeswoman Sophie Cagnard said on Friday, confirming remarks by Roger Dubuis CEO Jean-Marc Pontroue to Swiss newspaper Le Temps.

Richemont and Roger Dubuis declined to comment on the sale price. Vontobel analyst Rene Weber said it was likely to be less than Roger Dubuis’ annual sales, which he estimated would total around 60 million euros ($65 million) for the year ending March.

Akram Aljord, an investor and chief executive of the watch brand Hysek, owned the 40 percent stake, Le Temps said.

A sharp slowdown in demand from China, previously the engine of luxury goods growth, has hit the watch industry hard.

A weak market could provide prime conditions for the consolidation of small brands.

“Given the tough situation I would not be surprised to see more watch deals with smaller players joining the bigger groups such as Swatch Group, LVMH and Kering in addition to Richemont,” Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox said.

‎”It is getting increasingly hard for small players to survive given we are now in the fourth year of weakness, with 2015 the worst year since 2009,” he added. “The cash left over from the 2009-12 Chinese-led boom has been largely exhausted at the smaller houses, I suspect.”

Vontobel’s Weber estimated Roger Dubuis was just breaking even in terms of costs. The brand’s watches sell for between 15,000 and 500,000 Swiss francs ($493,800), he added.

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Mark Potter