"Arab spring" is about to gain a new meaning. The famous French department store, Printemps – spring in French – is about to be taken over by a Qatari consortium for a reported €1.6bn (£1.3bn).
The investors, operating through Disa, a Luxembourg investment company, are said to have guaranteed the future of the 16 Printemps stores in France and their 3,400 employees.
Galeries Lafayette, the neighbour of the flagship Printemps store on the Boulevard Haussmann in the centre of Paris, failed in an estimated €1.8bn bid to take over its ancestral rival in December.
According to documents sent to the French news agency AFP, a deal has been reached for Qatari investors – possibly the state investment arm of the super-rich Gulf state – to buy the 70 per cent stake in Printemps owned by Deutsche Bank since 2006. As part of the deal, the Qatari investors will also buy the Italian company, Borletti, which owns the remaining 30 per cent.
The documents seen by AFP say that Disa will become the sole owner of Borletti Group and this will in turn be the sole owner and operator of Printemps Holding Luxembourg.
Qatar has already invested extensively in Britain and France in recent years, including the purchase of the Harrods department store and the Shard building. In France, the Qatari state has purchased the football club Paris Saint-Germain and several luxury hotels, including the Royal Monceau, Concorde La Fayette and Hôtel du Louvre in Paris, the Carlton and Martinez in Cannes, and the Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice.
According to the publicly announced strategy of the emirate, Qatar plans to become an indispensable part of the world economy and community by ploughing its oil and gas earnings into high-profile sport, culure, education and leisure enterprises.
A meeting of the Printemps staff committee was called in Paris yesterday to discuss the takeover. The documents seen by AFP say the current chief executive, Paolo de Cesare, will remain in his job. The contracts of the 3,400 employees will be respected.
Printemps was sold by the group PPR, owned by family holding of the French tycoon François Pinault, seven years ago for just over €1bn. Its turnover has since increased by 30 per cent to €1.45bn in 2011.