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NEWS: PPR (Gucci) to buy 23 pct of Swiss watchmaker Sowind (Girard-Perregaux/Jean Richard)

June 16, 2008

PARIS, June 9 (Reuters) - French retail group PPR (PRTP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is buying a 23 percent stake in Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Sowind Group, which includes the Girard-Perregaux brand, PPR said on Monday.

PPR (PRTP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), which owns fashion house Gucci, could increase its stake in Sowind as part of a long-term partnership which aims to help Gucci establish itself in the high-end watch segment. It gave no financial details.

Sowind Chairman Luigi Macaluso will retain control of the group and will join Gucci's management committee.

"We are convinced that this agreement will create a number of important synergies for our watch brands and their further development," Robert Polet, Gucci Group CEO, said in a press statement.

The deal comes weeks after PPR rival LVMH (LVMH.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) agreed to buy Swiss watchmaker Hublot.

The global luxury watch market is worth 18 billion euros ($28.5 billion) a year, according to an estimate from Swiss bank Vontobel. (Reporting by Jessica Mead; Editing by David Holmes)


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