Kering group ready for new acquisitions
Valentino? A jewellery brand? A couture or a leather goods label? François-Henri Pinault had a twinkle in his eye as he faced a roomful of journalists asking him which of these options his luxury group was setting its sights on next.
On Tuesday, at the end of Kering’s annual results presentation, held at the luxury group's headquarters at 40 rue de Sèvres, Paris, speculation was rife about the possible extensions of Kering’s luxury goods fiefdom. One year after the group announced, during the presentation of the 2017 results, that it intended to disengage from, or sell the stakes it held in Puma, Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane and Volcom, Kering has now made clear its potential for stretching its boundaries.
“We are fully able to adapt to our environment and our market. We invest judiciously and with a long-term outlook,” said Jean-François Palus, the luxury group's general manager, speaking at the official presentation of the 2018 results. “We are therefore well-placed to seize any value-adding external growth opportunity that will present itself,” he added.
Jean-Marc Duplaix, the group's chief financial officer, had paved the way a few minutes earlier, underlining how, in 2018, “free cash flow reached nearly €3 billion, while we decided to maintain a significant level of investment, at about 6% of the group’s revenue.”
Pinault spoke in more measured tones, and after stating that the revenue in question reached €13.6 billion, he gave further details about his vision of external growth: “We currently have significant and constantly increasing financial resources at our disposal, and we are in the position of being able to seize opportunities. Let me remind you that the group's priority is our labels’ organic growth, which is still very significant. We have by no means reached maturity, including with Gucci, and this is what we are focusing on now.”
Yet, Pinault isn’t ruling out expansion, saying that “of course, if opportunities will present themselves that are consistent with our portfolio rules, in terms of market positioning and style, we will be able to seize them. We have the financial means, and we also have platforms capable of embracing new labels and tapping their potential relatively quickly. We don't need [acquisitions] to grow. And we will not get into a price war.”
Facing a smaller audience of reporters, Pinault made his thinking even clearer: “We take extreme care to avoid overpaying a label, as has been the case recently. In the watches sector, the market has changed so much that it’s important to assess potential opportunities. Interestingly, we have highly differentiated and very strong expertise within a set of exceptional manufacturers. For the time being, we are keeping our eyes open. As for jewellery, we think it’s a thriving market. This is why we are investing in Boucheron, Pomellato, and Qeelin. Any new acquisition must be complementary. We have the resources and the platforms to enable us to transform acquisitions into value-creating units very quickly.”
Kering has decided to manage its e-commerce operations internally, and it doesn't seem to envisage external growth in this field. Instead, Pinault thinks that opportunities may arise in sectors where the group's know-how is greater: “In fashion leather goods, there is still room for improvement. It’s the sector in which we are most active. We are looking at opportunities there, because it makes sense.”
High-calibre independent labels in this sector, especially in the UK and Italy, should take heed. Also because Kering could go ahead with the planned sale of Volcom or Christopher Kane, and above all sell the 15% or so stake it still holds in thriving Puma, to finance, at least in part, such an operation.
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