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Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 16:30 GMT


Business: The Company File

LVMH buys UK auction house

LVMH sees the internet auction market as a growth area

The French luxury goods group, LVMH, is to buy Phillips, the last of the big-three UK auction houses to fall under foreign control.

The 203-year-old art auctioneer is the world's third-largest auction house, with 21 sales rooms around the world, including New York, Zurich, Sydney and London.

Recent sales at Phillips include the love letters of the Earl of Essex to Queen Elizabeth I, and Claude Monet's painting of San Maggiore in Venice as well as some of the Thunderbird puppets.

Some reports suggest LVMH paid $129m for the company, but the conglomerate has declined to comment on the price.

Phillips conducted auction sales totalling 140m last year.

Phillips is the second UK auction house to be bought by a French company in recent years.

Web auction

Last year, French tycoon Francois Pinault, head of retailer Pinault-Printemps-Redoute bought Christie's for an estimated 721m.

Sotheby's is under US control, with an investment group led by Ronald Baron owning 41% of the company, while the chairman, Alfred Taubman, owns 26% of Sotheby's stock.

"In Phillips, we have a recognised brand with a strong growth heritage and significant potential for future growth, particularly in the context of the growing internet auction market," Daniel Piette, president of LV Capital said.

Many of the big auction houses now conduct some of their business on the web.

Christie's plans to offer online bidding for all its auctioned items from next year, while Sotheby's has a partnership with Amazon.



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