Objective remarks on Tiffany’s buyout by LVMH From Shanghai to Paris – Forbes News – November 2019

News | December 13 2019

Caroline Ruellan, head of the Cercle des Administrateurs and founding CEO of SONJ Conseil, draws awareness on corporate governance trends within French luxury companies.

Whomever had the privilege to visit China, especially its two most iconic cities – Beijing and Shanghai – should have taken the full measure of the Chinese economy’s irrepressible growth in just a few hours, while the western press has been stating this fact for several years.

Indeed, there is no need to read the countless reports on the subject. A simple glance at the never-ending Bund river in Shanghai and its breath-taking skyscrapers illuminated at great expense, or the use for public transport purposes of a state-of-the art high-speed-train, sheltered in equally lavish railway stations, is enough to make anyone’s head spin.

From Shanghai to New York, President Trump is therefore right to be concerned by this dashing economic hegemony.

A country counting 1.4 billion citizens; with a docile population, disciplined, nationalist, hardworking, determined to rehabilitate the splendour of its ancient civilization, with little democratic expectations, but striving to the betterment of its daily living conditions with an access to consumer society, has been able to catch up in less than 20 years with western economic powers, most notably the United States of America.

However, it remains that the Occidental world, and more specifically Europe, the “old continent”, still holds several powerful arguments to put forth. The 16,2 billion dollars buyout of Tiffany, “an American icon becoming a little French”, quoting Bernard Arnault, is a timely reminder of that fact.

Undoubtedly, this takeover represents the largest acquisition in the history of high-end brands and confers to the French group an undisputable and worldwide supremacy in the luxury jewellery sector.

As excellence begets excellence, there is no other option but to applaud this stroke of genius. As such, financial markets immediately reacted, LVMH stock price soaring at an all-time high of 408 euros, the day following the completion of negotiations.

From a macroeconomic perspective, Tiffany’s buyout represents a shift in the centre of gravity of European and more specifically, French economic power, and through political ricochet, of our industry towards luxury products. This sector has grown as a first-hand economic asset for our country, allowing to celebrate French “know-how” around the world, especially alongside the vast Chinese market, avid of quality luxury products.

Indeed, the market share of Chinese consumers in the luxury sector has been exponentially increasing. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, China represented 32% of the global luxury market’s consumer base in 2016. Even more striking, the same study predicts that within 2025, this market share will increase to 44% (McKinsey & Company, Chinese luxury consumers: The 1 million renminbi opportunity, May 2017).

As depicted by the recent inauguration of the Pompidou Centre in Shanghai, luxury and culture are now the figureheads of our economic policy and a shining representation of the French soft-power.

In this regard, Bernard Arnault does more for France, its influence and power, than most politicians and diplomats. In a country lacking optimism, prone to self-criticism, maybe we could, for once, break out the champagne, preferably some Moët & Chandon!

Here’s hoping that Mr. Arnault will inspire others that will follow suit.