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Chinese firm buys 253-year-old French crystal maker Baccarat

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

[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 Ltd is buying a controlling stake from Baccarat's private-equity owners for about 164 million euros (S$255 million), according to a statement 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 per cent of the shares are publicly traded.

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

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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 148.3 million euros in 2016. Baccarat had a profit of 3.2 million euros last year, and prior to that was unprofitable for five out of seven years.

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

Fortune Fountain will offer other shareholders the same price for their shares, though doesn't 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 will maintain production and jobs in the French town it's named for, and Daniela Riccardi will continue leading the company as chief executive officer, Baccarat said.

Societe Generale advised Fortune Fountain, while Messier Maris & Associes acted for the sellers.

BLOOMBERG

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