French market regulators will meet on Thursday to determine the legality of a plan that Hermès family shareholders cooked up in December to protect their company from a hostile takeover by luxury retail giant LVMH. This strategy involves funneling 50 percent of the family's shares into an unnamed holding company, which would thus allow family members to sell their shares, should they need some extra cash, without running the risk of those shares getting snapped up by LVMH. There's one glitch in this plan, though: French laws require that companies first issue a public offering if they are transferring more than 33 percent of their shares to another holder, which would defeat the whole purpose of Hermès's scheme. The family shareholders hope to bypass this rule, which is possible if regulators decide that they are simply "reclassifying" their shares rather than transferring them.
Just before Christmas, LVMH increased its holdings of Hermès to 20.2 percent, proving that the company is actively seeking out any Hermès stocks that aren't nailed down. French market regulators say they will reach a decision about Hermès's "reclassification" plan by the end of the month, but some insiders predict it will take longer.