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Waterford Wedgwood: impervious to any takeover bid

4 March 1999: At the International Frankfurt Consumer Goods Fair in Frankfurt, Ambiente, Waterford Wedgwood Chairman, Tony O“Reilly, said that the company is safe from any takeover bid.
O“Reilly s…

4 March 1999: At the International Frankfurt Consumer Goods Fair in Frankfurt, Ambiente, Waterford Wedgwood Chairman, Tony O“Reilly, said that the company is safe from any takeover bid. O“Reilly said he, along with Peter Goulandris, the director of Waterford Wedgwood, held up to 30% of the company“s shares, which would make the company “impervious” to any takeover. In recent months, Waterford Wedgwood“s share price has fallen and this has prompted rumours that it may become a takeover target. Also at the fair was Donatella Versace, the artistic director of Versace and sister of the late fashion designer, Gianni Versace. Versace told reporters that the company intends to float on the stock exchange in the next few years. She said despite the negative experience of Gucci, which floated some years ago, she was “in favour of companies like ours going public”. It is estimated that Versace makes annual profits of ItL 56 billion (Euro 289 million). If the company floated it would be a significant development within the fashion industry. Versace teamed up recently with Waterford Wedgwood“s continental subsidiary, Rosenthal, on a range of bathroom products. O“Reilly said working with a “co-partner” like Versace was how Waterford Wedgwood would grow. He said there was excess capacity in the ceramics and crystal markets, but by being “a lowcost operator, the company would flourish”. He said there were a number of ways to do this, including greater levels of out-sourcing. The chief executive of Waterford Crystal, Redmond O“Donoghue, said “strong brands” would be able to survive the waves of consolidation. Speaking about the economic problems in Asia, which had affected the group“s performance, Dr O“Reilly said he was “cautiously optimistic” that economies in that region could be turned around. He said consumers in Japan would soon recover their confidence and he predicted that growth in Japan would reach 1.5% this year. Once Japan rebounded, he said, other economies like Korea, Thailand and Thaiwan should follow. “If Japan ignites once again, our products should find an accommodation there” he said. Brian Patterson, chief executive of Wedgwood, said the company“s trade in Japan was in the “social gift market. That has not been affected as badly as other areas,” he said. O“Reilly said business in the whole group was “proceeding at a rapid pace”. He added that sales in 1998 were expected to be at about DM 1.6 billion (Euro 820 million) world-wide. He added that the three companies in the group – Rosenthal, Waterford Crystal and Wedgwood – would better co-ordinate their “sales activities” from now on. “In recent months Wedgwood and Rosenthal have both collaborated intensely for numerous projects and will together make better use of the existing know-how in product development and marketing” he said. “The collections by Rosenthal and Wedgwood complement each other ideally and should be rounded off strategically in the coming months” he added.

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