Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Geneva — French crystal maker Baccarat is changing hands 253 years after it was founded by royal decree of King Louis XV.

Chinese investment company Fortune Fountain Capital is buying a controlling stake from Baccarat’s private-equity owners for about €164m, according to a statement on Friday.

The deal ends more than a decade of ownership by Starwood Capital, which took over the brand from the Taittinger family in 2005. Buyout firm L Catterton, which is backed by luxury-goods leader LVMH, took a stake in 2012, and not much more than 10% of the shares are publicly traded.

Baccarat is known for sets of champagne glasses that cost as much as $990 and chandeliers that can cost thousands. It also sells a $5,000 glass chair.

The brand’s finest works include a crystal balustrade at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace and its designs have been collected by royal families including that of Portugal. Some Baccarat pieces have been exhibited at the Louvre.

In recent years, revenue has been declining. Annual sales have dropped in each of the past four years and reached €148.3m in 2016. Baccarat had a profit of €3.2m in 2016, and before that was unprofitable for five out of seven years.

Expansion plans

Fortune Fountain, owned by descendants of renowned Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi, agreed to buy an 88.8% stake from Starwood and L Catterton for €222.70 a share. The price is 14% less than Thursday’s closing share price for Baccarat, which has risen about 19% in the past two weeks on speculation of a possible takeover.

Fortune Fountain would offer other shareholders the same price for their shares, although did not plan to delist the company, the crystal maker said.

Baccarat said the purchase would help it accelerate its expansion plans in Asia and the Middle East. Fortune Fountain would maintain production and jobs in the French town it was named for, and Daniela Riccardi would continue leading the company as CEO, Baccarat said.

Société Générale advised Fortune Fountain, while Messier Maris & Associes acted for the sellers.

Bloomberg

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