PARIS, France — French luxury tycoon Bernard Arnault is optimistic about the country’s new president, but he’s worried about the global economy.
The chief executive officer of LVMH visited a technology fair in Paris on Thursday where he mingled with startup founders and shook hands with 39-year-old President Emmanuel Macron, saying he is “very happy” with the new leader.
Macron, who’s set to consolidate his election victory last month with a clear majority in the National Assembly, is a “new power that will reform France and contribute to give more strength to Europe as a whole,” Arnault said in a Bloomberg TV interview.
LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, which sells luxury goods ranging from Dior perfume to Dom Perignon Champagne, surpassed oil giant Total SA last month to become France’s biggest company by market capitalisation. The company has recently stepped up its digital efforts, launching a multi-brand e-commerce site called 24Sevres.com. It also served as a sponsor of the tech fair.
Walking through the sprawling event, Arnault met entrepreneurs including Anders Bringdal and Alain Thebault, the founders of SeaBubbles SAS, a startup that wants to build flying river taxis. “We want to show it’s possible for large companies to be close to startups and help them,” Arnault said.
Arnault wasn’t the only business leader at the event to express optimism about Macron’s election. The new president’s pledge to reinvigorate the country’s sluggish economy and shake up its rigid labour market has drawn support from tech entrepreneurs.
“Macron was the candidate with the best understanding of our ecosystem,” Philippe Botteri, a partner at venture-capitalist investor Accel Partners, said in an interview. “Anything that helps simplify labor law in France will be beneficial.”
Despite bullish statements about France’s chances for economic reform under Macron, Arnault expressed concern about the macroeconomic climate. Low and negative interest rates are creating “a very strange period” for business, he said.
“Companies like LVMH are paid to borrow money, which is dangerous,” Arnault said. “There’s a lot of money in the market. Bubbles are building up and at some point they’ll explode. Very soon we’ll be over 10 years without a crisis, so be careful.”
By Robert Williams; editors: Eric Pfanner and Nick Turner.
Disclosure: LVMH is part of a group of investors who, together, hold a minority interest in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholder’s documentation guaranteeing BoF’s complete editorial independence.