Having just announced its full-year results while predicting a gloomy outlook for the business, Richemont has successful placed €2 billion of bonds, with coupon ranging from 0.75% for the 8-year note to 1.625% for the 20-year note. The bond placement boosts the Swiss luxury group’s robust balance sheet, which had a gross cash position of €6.34 billion and a net cash position of €2.40 billion at the end of March 31, 2020.
The notes received an A+ rating from credit ratings agency S&P, which also lowered its outlook for Richemont from stable to negative, “citing the possibility of a downgrade if the coronavirus pandemic causes the company’s credit metrics to worsen”.
Widely regarded as a savvy investor who transformed his family’s tobaccco-and-banking empire into an even larger one focused the “hard” luxury of watches and jewellery, Mr Rupert’s belief in the severity of the pandemic-induced recession is obvious. That, in turn, does not bode well for the luxury watch business. Richemont’s biggest earner is Cartier – the jewellery division is half the group’s turnover – it also owns a host of luxury watch brands, including A. Lange & Söhne, IWC, and Panerai, which make up about 20% of its sales.
During Richemont’s earning conference call on May 15, Mr Rupert explained the bond issue: “We have always believed in protecting our balance sheet… For years, a lot of investment banks questioned us about that it’s a lazy balance sheet. But having been through this in ’87 and in ’99, 2000 and in 2008… it’s just being in the position… where we’re in charge of our own destiny… we are in a secure cash position to ride out even if this COVID-19 tragedy extends for longer than we hope.”
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