Swiss company in bid for Gant

A Swiss retailer has launched a hostile takeover bid for Swedish clothing company Gant. The cash bid from Maus Frères values Gant at 5.2 billion kronor ($814 million). But the chairman of the Swedish company, who is one of Gant's major shareholders, has said he won't sell.

Didier Maus, CEO of Maus Frères, said in a statement that acquiring Gant would fit with his company’s strategy of focusing on the affordable luxury segment.

Maus Frères is one of the largest privately-owned retailers in Switzerland. The company has recently bought 2.1 million Gant shares, or 12.5 percent of the capital and voting rights, from a number of institutional investors.

“Even if this offer is unsolicited we aim to get everyone onboard as soon as possible and we have no hostile intentions,” said Guy Latourrette, CEO of Maus Frères International.

The Swiss company, controlled by the Maus and Nordmann families, owns the company that makes clothes for Lacoste and a number of store chains, mainly located in Switzerland.

“Maus Frères believes the Lacoste garment business and Gant would be an excellent strategic fit, particularly as they are both aimed at similar target groups without having any extensive product overlap,” a statement from the Swiss company said.

Latourrette added in a telephone conference on Tuesday morning that he was “convinced that Gant can be a global brand and that we can help the company move forward and take a the steps to grow further.”

The bid of 310 kronor per share represents a 31 percent premium on Gant’s closing share price the Stockholm Stock Exchange on Monday.

Gant shares rose by 35 percent in opening trading on Tuesday to 320 kronor – above the value of the offer – with the markets betting on a higher bid from Maus Frères or from a competing bidder.

Gant chairman Lennart Björk, who is also a major shareholder, dismissed the bid.

“As a shareholder I have told ‘the Mouse Brothers’ and ‘the Big Mouse’ himself, when I spoke to him, that I can’t understand why we would sell,” he said.

“As chairman I can’t say anything before the board has met and dealt with the question. But as a shareholder I can say no and I know that a number of others share my view.”