Tiffany sues LMVH as French luxury giant walks away from acquisition deal

LVMH just left Tiffany at the altar.

The French luxury conglomerate said Wednesday that it’s walking away from its $16.2 billion takeover of the storied New York jeweler — but Tiffany said it’s suing to keep the deal intact.

In a statement, LVMH said the French government told it in a letter to wait until Jan. 6 of next year to close the deal in response to the US’s threat to impose tariffs on French goods. The company also noted that Tiffany had asked to complete the tie-up on Dec. 31 instead of a previous Nov. 24 deadline.

“As a results of these elements … as it stands, the Group LVMH will therefore not be able to complete the acquisition of Tiffany & Co.,” LVMH said in its statement.

In response, Tiffany said it filed a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court to hold LVMH to the terms of the merger agreement the companies reached last November.

The jeweler blamed the delay in closing the deal on LVMH’s failure to seek approval from antitrust authorities in countries that have jurisdiction over the merger, including the European Union and Taiwan.

Tiffany also alleged that LVMH waited until Tuesday to tell it about the French government’s letter to hold off on the deal even though the letter was dated Aug. 31. Regardless, the government’s request “does not excuse LVMH from completing the merger,” Tiffany said.

“We regret having to take this action but LVMH has left us no choice but to commence litigation to protect our company and our shareholders,” Roger N. Farah, chairman of Tiffany’s board, said in a statement.

Tiffany shares tumbled 8.5 percent in premarket trading Wednesday to $111.45 as of 7:30 a.m. LVMH’s Paris-listed shares were recently down 0.8 percent at 400.95 euros ($471.34).

The dispute throws a wrench into a blockbuster deal that was expected to restore some luster to Tiffany while expanding LVMH’s already massive portfolio of high-end brands including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Christian Dior.

Reports emerged in June that LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault — the world’s fourth-richest person — was considering ways to renegotiate the deal amid the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests in the US, though the company reportedly decided not to pursue the move. LVMH did publicly acknowledge that it was weighing how the COVID-19 crisis could affect Tiffany’s “results and perspectives.”

But LVMH’s Wednesday statement did not mention the pandemic, and Tiffany noted that the virus had not stopped other large mergers from going through antitrust approval processes.

The dispute erupted less than two weeks after Tiffany said it returned to profitability in the quarter ending July 31, posting net earnings of $32 million and net sales of $747 million.