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Luxury goods giant LVMH cancels $14.5B deal for Tiffany

FILE - In this Nov.25, 2019 file photo, the logo of Tiffany jeweler shop is pictured on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris. LVMH is ending its monthslong pursuit of luxury jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co., citing in part the impact of proposed tariffs on French goods. The Paris-based conglomerate said that it needs more time to assess the impact of U.S. tariffs on French goods and cannot close the deal before year-end. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

NEW YORK — Luxury goods giant LVMH is ending its takeover deal of jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co., saying the French government had requested a delay to assess the threat of proposed U.S. tariffs.

Wednesday’s announcement came after the deal’s value had been eroded by wider industry troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Paris-based conglomerate said that both the French government and Tiffany had requested that the closing of the deal be postponed by a few months. The French government, it said, wanted to assess the impact of the possible U.S. tariffs on French goods.

As a result, LVMH said, the $14.5 billion deal — which would have been biggest ever in the luxury market and was scheduled to close Nov. 24 — will be canceled.

Tiffany replied that it’s suing to enforce the merger agreement, which was signed in November 2019. The New York company said LVMH’s argument has no basis in French law. Tiffany also said that LVMH hasn’t even attempted to seek the required antitrust approval from three jurisdictions.

“We believe that LVMH will seek to use any available means in an attempt to avoid closing the transaction on the agreed terms,” said Roger Farah, chairman of Tiffany, in a statement.

Shares in Tiffany slid $7.85, or 6.4%, to close Wednesday at $113.96. Those in LVMH, which owns 75 brands including Christian Dior, Fendi, Givenchy and Tag Heuer, were stable.

The deal’s value came under strain during the pandemic, which has caused retail sales to plunge around the world. Tiffany’s share price has been trading around $125 a share for weeks — below the $135 per share price that LVMH had agreed to pay last fall, before the pandemic.

Back then, industry experts had said the deal made sense. Tiffany, known for its delicate jewelry, distinctive blue boxes and an Audrey Hepburn movie, had been trying to transform its brand to appeal to younger and more digital shoppers, and could have used an owner with deep pockets to help expand.

LVMH, led by billionaire Bernard Arnault, had thought the deal would strengthen its position in high-end jewelry and in the U.S. market. LVMH was also making a bet on China’s economy, where Tiffany had been expanding its presence.

The pandemic threw all those assumptions and plans in doubt, and the threat of new tariffs between the U.S. and Europe was cited as a further complicating issue.

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