The Swiss lingerie group has reached an agreement to acquire a further 11.63 percent stake in the French Lafuma Group, which owns the Lafuma, Millet, Eider and Oxbow brands, from two institutional investors, Comir and Suparcif. With this transaction, Calida will raise its shareholding in the company to 71.55 percent. Denying some speculation in the press, an executive of Calida said his company will be under no obligation to make a bid for all the remaining shares in Lafuma, although it will own more than two-thirds of its equity, but some investors are betting that it will do so eventually, pushing its share price higher.
The Swiss company took control of Lafuma in December 2013, acquiring an initial stake of 50.65 percent of the shares at a unit price of €14. The new transaction, which should be completed before the end of April, has been negotiated at a price of €16 per share, giving the company a valuation of €113.8 million, down from its stock market capitalization of €143 million at the end of last year. Lafuma's share price went up again recently, probably in view of the expected tender offer. It reached a level of €19.08 yesterday, indicating a market capitalization of €135.5 million.
As previously reported (Compass Vol. 9 - n° 5-6 of March 10), the Lafuma Group confirmed its turnaround a few weeks ago by reporting a small net profit of €2,406,000 for the past year, up by 8.9 percent from the profit of the previous year. Its strategic realignment led to a 5.3 percent increase in its total revenues to €162.8 million.
All the three divisions of the French group contributed to an improved operating profit of €3,007,000 for the year, which stood 8.7 percent above the level reached in 2014. Sales declined by €8 million for the Millet Mountain Group, which comprises all the brands of Lafuma except for the Lafuma camping furniture division and Oxbow. It represented 61 percent of Lafuma's turnover last year.
Calida's annual report says that Lafuma's Millet Mountain Group did not meet its targets last year, as its operating profit contribution declined to 19.5 percent of its sales from 23.1 percent in the previous year. Generally unfavorable weather conditions and the strength of the U.S. dollar, which is used for two-thirds of the products it sources, were only partly offset by currency hedging.
Calida's report adds that the subsidiaries of the group in the U.S. and Hong Kong were reorganized and streamlined last year. The logistics were outsourced in the U.S. A new management team was appointed in Japan, which remains the group's largest sales organization outside France. In China, the production and distribution operations were combined. Calida plans to boost e-commerce for the brands in the Mountain Group, which currently contribute 22.1 percent of revenues.
Christian Haas, who has been representing Comir and Suparcif on Lafuma's board of directors, will resign from this function. Two new directors are being proposed. One of them is Jean-Paul Rigaudeau, a French executive who sits on the board of Fairtrade International and is joint chief executive of a medical company, Implantica.
Meanwhile, press reports indicate that there will probably be some tension around the future role of Calida's outgoing chief executive, Felix Sulzberger, at the company's annual meeting of shareholders scheduled for April 21. The second-largest shareholder of the group, Micalux, requested that he should be re-elected as a member of the board of directors.
The current board of directors has rejected Micalux' proposal on the grounds that Sulzberger has been focusing on expansion, leading the acquisition of Aubade and Lafuma, and that any further external growth should not be “in focus” in the medium term. The chairman of the board, Thomas Lustenberger, is reportedly opposing Sulzberger's re-election also because the latter went public last December with a statement that he was resigning because of differences of views with the board. In an interview with the Wirtschaftszeitung, Sulzberger criticized Lustenberger for his failure to abide by corporate governance principles.
As reported, Calida already has a new CEO. Reiner Pichler, 54, took over Sulzberger's place in this position on April 1.