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French Luxury Stocks Hit by Trump's Tariffs

The US President is proposing additional tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of French goods, ranging from handbags to sparkling wine and makeup.
The building of the Louis Vuitton Foundation | Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Bloomberg

PARIS, France — US President Donald Trump's proposed additional tariffs on $2.4 billion of French goods, ranging from handbags to sparkling wine and makeup, could be an overhang for months on shares of LVMH, Hermès International and Kering SA.

French luxury stocks fell 2 percent or more at midday in Paris, after the US announced the levies. The stocks touched session lows in late morning as Trump, speaking in London, indicated that a trade deal with China may not happen for another year.

US sales of the products targeted by Trump account for a relatively small portion of the companies’ earnings, traders and analysts said. And investors have learned that a threat of tariffs doesn’t necessarily mean they will ever be put in place. Still, for an industry already hurt by the US-China trade dispute and Hong Kong protests, the news is unwelcome.

“Potential new tariffs aren’t good for sentiment on French consumer names but there’s Trump tariff threat fatigue,” Keith Temperton, a trader at Tavira Securities, said by email. Still, the “overhang of tariffs remains” on these stocks, he said.

Some companies also are already taking action to stay on Trump's good side: LVMH recently opened a new Louis Vuitton factory in Texas, part of Chairman Bernard Arnault's efforts to hedge against trade tensions and build on the rapport he's established with the US president. LVMH last month agreed to buy Tiffany & Co. for $16.2 billion to expand its US footprint.

France's benchmark CAC 40 Index slipped 0.5 percent at 12.05 pm. in Paris, dragged down by Hermès, LVMH and Kering, which owns the Gucci and Saint Laurent brands. The three stocks plus cosmetics company L'Oreal SA account for about 18 percent of the index's weighting.

Here is what analysts are saying about the proposed tariffs:

Bernstein, Luca Solca

  • "The theme of Trump's tariffs isn't new. We'll have to see what comes out of it after all the threats."

Jefferies, Edward Mundy

  • The direct impact from fresh tariffs into the US that include sparkling wine is "negligible," but it points to uncertainty around whether existing tariffs on spirits imports into the US could be widened or deepened.
  • Tariffs will be reviewed in February 2020 and then again in August 2020, meaning tariff uncertainty is likely to remain a theme for spirits.

Liberum, Nico von Stackelberg

  • L'Oreal is "largely insulated" by the proposed US tariffs as it already makes products for US clients in the country.

Bloomberg Intelligence, Duncan Fox

  • This will affect a myriad of listed companies, including LVMH, Hermès, L'Oreal and Pernod, though all have production and US plants and brands that could offset duties.
  • The US is likely the largest single global market for luxury goods and beverages, but prices may be less of an issue for some of these expensive products. Sales could also be diverted to duty-free establishments.
  • Cheese sales could be harmed by added tariffs, yet French dairy exports to the US only totaled 188 million euros ($208 million) in 2017. Key cheesemakers are privately owned or co-operatives, such as Le Groupe Bel and Groupe Sodiaal.

By Albertina Torsoli; editors: Beth Mellor, Phil Serafino and Jon Menon

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