Guinness restructures LVMH link to develop Moet ventures: Unbundling of stake will net drinks group pounds 416m

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GUINNESS is restructuring its link with LVMH, which will end its exposure to the French group's luxury goods businesses and leave it free to develop joint ventures with its Moet Hennessy cognac and champagne operation.

The pounds 1.3bn unbundling of the indirect 24 per cent shareholding in LVMH will net Guinness pounds 416m of cash and give it a 34 per cent direct stake in Moet. LVMH will own 66 per cent of Moet.

The Anglo-French partnership was formed in 1987, and was designed to prevent the dangerous break-up of LVMH, which could have delivered Moet into the hands of a rival.

However, the complexity of the link left Guinness suffering from some side-effects, notably the squeeze on LVMH's profits by the slump in sales of luxury goods.

Guinness shares, which have only recently returned to favour after almost two years in the wilderness, leapt 49p to 521p. Analysts said there were long-term benefits for Guinness. Tony Greener, chairman and chief executive of Guinness, one of the world's leading drinks groups, said: 'We are now joined at the hip, and not the head.

'I am confident about the long- term prognosis for Moet. They have an enviable line-up of major brands.' Moet's brands include Hennessy cognac and Moet et Chandon and Veuve Clicquot champagnes. Guinness owns the best-selling Johnnie Walker Red and Black Label whiskies.

The deal involves Guinness selling a 45 per cent stake in Christian Dior and a 45 per cent stake in Jacques Rober, which respectively have 4 and 20 per cent of LVMH, for pounds 1.3bn, to Arnault, the holding company for the French group.

Guinness will then pay pounds 902m for the stake in Moet.

LVMH has also agreed to cut its holding in Guinness from 24 to 20 per cent by June 1995. A sale today would just cover the pounds 416m cash Arnault has to pay to Guinness, which will use the money to reduce its pounds 1.8bn of debts.

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