Minority shareholders to contest Hermes ruling

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A French small shareholders association said Monday it will appeal a decision by market regulators allowing the family controlling luxury goods house Hermes not to make an offer for all the shares.

The head of the ADAM association of minority shareholders, Colette Neuville, said they planned to file papers on January 17, just before the deadline, "so as to give us as much time as possible to prepare the appeal."

The AMF markets regulator said last week it would not enforce legal provisions for making offers to purchase shares from minority shareholders as the controlling family try to fight off the embrace of giant rival LVMH.

Global luxury retailer LVMH early last month increased its stake in Hermes to more than 20 percent, prompting the descendants of founder Thierry Hermes to set up a holding company structure to thwart any eventual LVMH takeover.

In changing the group structure, however, the family members, who collectively hold more than 73 percent of Hermes, laid themselves open to the obligation to buy out all minority shareholders.

The holding company is intended to control more than 50 percent of Hermes and so block a hostile takeover but under French rules, any shareholder acquiring more than 33 percent of a listed company must offer to buy the other shares.

The minority shareholders association said the fact that most owners of a company belong to a family should not allow them to escape their legal obligations to other shareholders when transforming into a group.

Hermes declined to comment on a possible appeal against the AMF ruling.

© 2011 AFP

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