RICHEMONT shareholder Artisan Partners said on Monday it agreed with activist investor Third Point that there was “significant unrecognised value” within the luxury goods firm controlled by South African billionaire Johann Rupert.
Artisan’s comments come a day after online news platform Miss Tweed and the Financial Times reported that hedge fund Third Point had built a stake in Richemont and was pressing the company to improve its performance.
Richemont and Third Point both declined to comment on the media reports.
“Artisan International Value are long-term investors focused on superior businesses with high returns, a strong balance sheet and management teams with a track record of creating value,” said David Samra, managing director of Artisan Partners.
“We have been an investor in Richemont for many years and support Mr Rupert in creating value for shareholders. That said, we agree with Third Point that there is significant unrecognised value within Richemont,” he told Reuters by email.
U.S. fund Artisan holds 1.2% of Richemont, which is headquartered in Switzerland and owns luxury brands including Cartier, Montblanc and Piaget.
Richemont shares underperformed sector leader LVMH last year but have risen more than 50% in 2021. They closed 2.8% higher on Monday, following the Third Point media reports.
Artisan’s Samra said the key source of undervaluation for Richemont related to its loss-making e-commerce business.
Richemont has invested heavily in its online distributors business YOOX Net-a-Porter (YNAP), though its continued losses have fuelled speculation about a potential sale.
“This is a very interesting, not to say promising, development. Some external pressure is always healthy,” Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy said.
“In my opinion, Third Point and Artisan Partners are not the only ones to exert pressure in that sense, it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Third Point, which is controlled by billionaire investor Daniel Loeb, has recently built a large stake in Royal Dutch Shell and called for the oil company to be split up.
While Artisan is not widely considered to be an activist investor, it successfully pushed for management changes at French food company Danone earlier this year.
Vontobel’s Bertschy also said Richemont’s ownership structure with two classes of shares was not viable nowadays from a corporate governance point of view.
Richemont has A shares listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and unlisted B shares held by Rupert’s Compagnie Financiere Rupert that represent 9.1% of the equity and 50% of the votes.
Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox said he expected YNAP to be sold, ultimately.
“But I suspect that the company was going to do this anyway and wants it to be profitable before it happens to realize greater value. I am not sure if Third Point is going to be able to accelerate that process,” Cox said.
Richemont reports results for the six months to September 30 on Friday.