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Leibish & Co
Monday, January 14, 2013
Swatch Group Acquires Harry Winston’s Luxury Retail Division for $1 Billion
The Swatch Group has acquired the famed Harry Winston luxury diamond jewelry and timepiece retail business for $750 million plus their assumption of up to $250 million of pro forma net debt. When this transaction is completed the company, Harry Winston Diamond Corp., will be solely in the diamond mining and distribution business.
The U.S. based division (Harry Winston Inc.) is a premier diamond jeweler and luxury timepiece retailer with salons in key locations—including New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Beverly Hills. The possible sale of the retail division was the subject of rumors for months, which the company denied in a statement issued in October.
The company’s namesake (Harry Winston, March 1, 1896 – December 28, 1978) founded the company in 1932. He was among the most famous jewelers in the world and the first jeweler to lend jewels to an actress for the Oscars red carpet in 1944. He was also famous for donating the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
The jeweler was bought by Canadian diamond mining group, Aber Corp., in 2006 to create the Harry Winston Diamond Corp., with divisions in luxury retail and diamond mining, which was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2007.
The transaction does not include the Canadian-based diamond mining activities of Harry Winston Diamond Corp., which has a 40 percent ownership interest in the Diavik Diamond Mine and is finalizing the purchase of the Ekati Diamond Mine, including its diamond sorting and sales facilities. Both mines are in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
When the transaction with Swatch is completed, this diamond business will operate under the name: Dominion Diamond Corporation.
Robert Gannicott, Harry Winston chairman and CEO, said changes in both luxury retail and the diamond markets, as well as the need for cash, led to the decision to sell its luxury retail operation.
“At the time that we purchased the Harry Winston brand, resource investment opportunities for diamonds were rare and expensive following the euphoria of the Canadian diamond discoveries, and the involvement of the large international mining companies,” Gannicott said in a statement. “The Harry Winston brand was competitively priced compared with its peers and we could bring diamond expertise and strategic connections to enhance value. Today there is a range of diamond resource opportunities while the value of heritage luxury brands has increased dramatically. This transaction represents a sound return on our original investment. It will leave us well equipped to realize upstream opportunities in an environment where cash has become a strategic resource while preserving and expanding our relationship with the downstream diamond business.”
The Swatch Group, based in Biel, Switzerland, is the world’s leading supplier of finished watches and watch movements and one of the world’s largest buyers of polished diamonds. The two companies said that they will also explore the opportunities for a joint diamond polishing venture bringing together the manufacturing and diamond expertise of the two companies.
“Harry Winston does brilliantly complement the prestige segment of the Group,” said Nayla Hayek, chairwoman of The Swatch Group Ltd. in a separate statement. “We are proud and happy to welcome Harry Winston to the Swatch Group family—diamonds are still a girl’s best friend.”
The transaction is subject to the approval of the different regulatory authorities.
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I am a freelance writer and editor who covers the luxury jewelry and watch industry for several publications, including Forbes.com the Financial Times, Hong Kong-based JewelleryNetAsiaand the Italian jewelry magazine, VO+. In addition, I have my own blog covering the jewelry and watch industry, Jewelry News Network.