Reacting to press reports of the Lafuma Group's potential acquisition by a South Korean conglomerate, E-Land, the French outdoor and action sports group confirmed that it had been approached by the company and that discussions had been opened. However, Lafuma hastened to add that the talks were very preliminary, and that they may not lead to any deal.
The French company owns the Lafuma outdoor brand along with two more mountain-oriented brands, Millet and Eider,; Le Chameau, which specializes in boots; and Oxbow, a French board sports brand. Lafuma turned into a diversified group after the company embarked on a round of acquisitions a few years ago, but it consistently said that it remained open to strategic shifts and changes in its capital. Lafuma returned to profit, albeit tiny, in the financial year through the end of September 2011.
After a recent equity increase, the Lafuma Group is owned by several institutions and individuals, none of them owning a majority. About 31.3 percent of the shares are in free float on the Paris stock exchange, while 20 percent are in the hands of Comir, a holding company related to the Baur family; the founding family of the group, retains 15.4 percent; Jean-Pierre Millet 11 percent; CDC, a French investment group, owns 14.6 percent; and BNP Paribas Fortis has 7.7 percent.
E-Land is a conglomerate that owns scores of fashion brands, operates as a licensee for several sports brands and runs a large-scale retail network. The Korean company has been the licensee and exclusive distributor of Berghaus in the country for several years and has already proven its appetite to grow abroad: After taking over an Italian shoe company, it bought last year Mandarina Duck, an Italian brand of leathergoods and accessories, and also made an unsuccessful bid for Collective Brands, the big American shoe conglomerate.
Lafuma already has a strong partnership in China with another Korean company, LG Fashion, that bought the rights for the Lafuma brand in its own market a few years ago. The French company's shares surged on the Paris stock exchange on the back of the announcement on Monday.