The luxury goods group, Richemont, has strengthened its position in the watch market with its acquisition of Les Manufactures Horlogères (LMH).
Richemont is to pay Vodafone AirTouch SFr3.08 billion for LMH in a deal which gives it control of three top brands in one fell swoop. LMH owns the Schaffhausen-based International Watch Company and has majority stakes in Lange & Soehne and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
As part of the deal, Richemont will acquire the 40 per cent stake in Jaeger-LeCoultre not currently owned by LMH.
"The acquisition represents a major strategic step for Richemont and will strengthen its position as one of the world's leading manufacturers of quality watches," said a company statement.
The Zug-based group already owns the luxury watch brands Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget and Baume et Mercier.
The deal marked the end of a fierce bidding war between Richemont and its rivals, Gucci and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH). The Swatch group was also bidding for LMH.
It became clear on Thursday that Richemont had almost closed the deal when it gained exclusive negotiating rights with Vodafone.
Vodafone's takeover of Mannesman AG earlier this year prompted the decision to sell LMH. Vodafone, the world's biggest mobile phone company, has made it clear it wants to focus on its core activities.
In a separate announcement, Richemont said its first quarter sales rose by 30 per cent compared with the same period in 1999.
swissinfo with agencies
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