All Things Newz
Business

Activist investor fights for broader representation at Richemont


Article content

ZURICH — Activist shareholder Bluebell Capital Partners on Monday claimed a partial victory in its efforts to overhaul management at luxury group Richemont after the company proposed the appointment of a director to look after the interests of ordinary shareholders.

Cartier jewelry group Richemont is controlled by Chairman Johann Rupert, who owns all the non-listed category B shares in the company, which represent 9.1% of the capital, but 50% of the voting rights.

Bluebell, which last year triggered an overhaul at French food group Danone, has been seeking to put its co-founder Francesco Trapani on the board of Richemont, the world’s second biggest luxury company.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Richemont recommended a vote against Bluebell’s candidate but proposed existing independent director Wendy Luhabe as representative of investors holding A-class stock at its upcoming annual general meeting in September.

“The company for the first time has acknowledged and agreed that A shareholders should have the right to be represented on the board,” Bluebell joint CEO Guiseppe Bivona told Reuters.

“That is what we have been demanding, this is a major win for the market.”

But Bivona also said Richemont’s proposal to have Luhabe instead of Trapani, a former head of Italian luxury label Bulgari, as representative of A shareholders was not acceptable or credible.

“Effectively the board has renamed an existing representative of B shareholders as a representative of A shareholders,” he said.

Advertisement 3

Article content

“This underlines that the company is still not taking this issue seriously,” said Bivona, who said Richemont’s response strengthened the case for Trapani to become a “truly independent board member representing the holders of A shares.”

Richemont declined to comment further on Luhabe or the nomination.

Dual shareholding structures are not an unusual at Swiss-listed companies where owners want to dilute their stake without losing control.

Rival watchmaker Swatch Group is controlled by the Hayek family via a mixture of registered stock and more widely traded bearer shares.

Rupert also owns some category A shares in Richemont which gives him an extra 1% of the vote at the company whose stable of high-end brands includes Swiss watchmakers IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Bluebell wants Richemont to concentrate on jewelry and watches, saying that could double its share price in the medium term.

Bluebell has been invested in Richemont for 1-1/2 years and had a stake worth 105 million Swiss francs ($109 million), it told Reuters last month. Richemont has a market capitalisation of almost 59 billion francs, based on Refinitiv Eikon data.

Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox said the activist shareholder faced an uphill battle to change Richemont.

“Ultimately Johann Rupert is in charge of the show. While its shareholder structure looks dated compared to more modern governance practices, Rupert will be the one to decide if there is going to be a change, not Bluebell,” Cox said.

($1 = 0.9609 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Revill Editing by Christopher Cushing, Mark Potter and Jane Merriman)

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.



Source link

Related posts

Ukraine says it downs Russian missiles, UN pushes for nuclear plant’s safety

Oil prices rise on potential OPEC+ supply cuts; BP shuts U.S. refinery units

China’s Guangzhou lets developers cut home prices by 20% -Yicai