PARIS Chinese investment group Fortune Fountain Capital (FFC) said on Friday it has signed an agreement to buy a controlling stake in French crystal maker Baccarat (CDBP.PA) from U.S investment firms Starwood Capital Group and L Catterton.
Under the binding agreement, FFC will pay 222.70 euros per share, valuing the 88.8 percent stake at 164 million euros ($184 million).
The acquisition of the renowned Paris-based firm, founded in 1764, is another illustration of the growing weight of Chinese investments in the France, whose tourist and wine industries have a great appeal in the world's second-biggest economy.
The price reflects a 2.1 percent premium compared with Baccarat's closing stock price on May 18. Press reports then about a potential sale of the company triggered a spike in the share price, which closed at 259.90 euros on Thursday.
Baccarat turned a profit for the first time in four years in 2016. Its revenue over the period amounted to 148.3 million euros with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (Ebitda) of 12.9 million euros.
"The acquisition... will enable Baccarat to accelerate its strategic international plans, including expansion into emerging markets such as Asia and the Middle East, as well as continued growth across existing developed markets, particularly North America," FFC said in a statement.
The Chinese financial firm said it would keep the current workforce and management, including chief executive Daniela Riccardi.
Chinese investors poured a record $23 billion into Europe in 2015, including $3.6 billion in France, the number three destination for Chinese deals after Britain and Germany, according to a research report by U.S. law firm Baker & McKenzie.
China's Fosun (0056.HK) took control of French holiday group Club Med in 2015 and is in talks to buy a stake in French ski resorts operator Compagnie des Alpes (CDAF.PA).
Jin Jiang International also bought Europe's second-biggest budget operator Louvre Hotels for 1.3 billion euros in 2015.
Politicians in France and Germany have expressed concern at the rapid advance of Chinese companies in Europe, with former French President Francois Hollande balking at the prospect of city of Shanghai-controlled Jin Jiang gaining control of French hotels group AccorHotels (ACCP.PA).
(Reporting by Alan Charlish in Gdynia and Pascale Denis in Paris; Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Michael Perry and Adrian Croft)