Image: Louis Vuitton
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has held the title of the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate for years, but now the Paris-based entity is adding a new title to its roster: one of the most valuable companies in all of Europe. Shares in the Bernard Arnault-headed group – which owns 75 different brands ranging from fashion houses like Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, and Fendi to spirits companies, such as Veuve Clicquot and Moet – “are worth more than Europe’s biggest auto maker, Volkswagen AG, and biggest bank, HSBC Holdings,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Over the past month, LVMH’s share price has grown by more than 5 percent, bringing its market capitalization to $222 billion for the first time ever, and “making it almost as valuable as Europe’s biggest oil producer, Royal Dutch Shell PLC,” the WSJ reported on Thursday. And the maker of Louis Vuitton bags and Fendi furs is not alone in its stock market success: the share prices of its rivals Kering and Hermès have also been on the rise in recent years.

The sizable growth of these luxury players “is a sign of how the luxury business is eclipsing sectors that were once at the core of the European economy,” the WSJ’s Matthew Dalton says. While “banks are struggling to adapt to new post-financial-crisis regulations, auto makers [are] facing declining car sales, [and] big oil companies are subject to the whims of turbulent oil and natural-gas markets,” luxury fashion and accessories brands have been consistently revealing boosted bottom lines across the globe, and reshaping the makeup of the CAC-40, a market capitalization weighted index that reflects the performance of the 40 largest and most actively traded shares listed on Euronext Paris, in the process.

The latest display of LVMH’s growing might comes almost 2 and a half years after it became France’s biggest company by market value, “a mantle energy giant Total SA and drugmaker Sanofi SA had shared for almost a decade” thanks to a 200 percent rise in value since the start of 2016, Bloomberg reported.  Meanwhile, Gucci’s parent company Kering – which was situated in the number 7 spot on the CAC-40 – was proving to be similarly noteworthy, as it its stock recorded an increase of more than 33 percent, the largest increase for 2017 on the index.

Such growth by the luxury titan is “reshaping the French benchmark [index], long the realm of energy, infrastructure, financial and telecommunications stocks,” with France’s two biggest luxury giants particularly “well managed and more successful than others in attracting new clients globally via e-commerce, without cannibalizing their traditional business,” Christian Guyot, analyst at Invest Securities in Paris, said at the time.

As for whether LVMH, Kering and Hermès – which occupy three of the top seven spots by market cap on the CAC-40, “ahead of BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, and AXA SA, the country’s largest insurer,” according to the WSJ – can maintain their hold on the market as a whole, Bernstein & Co. analyst Luca Solca is optimistic, saying that “as long as global market conditions support a larger and larger audience of consumers who are interested in and capable of buying luxury goods, LVMH is in a great position.”

Given that the luxury goods giant “often serves as a canary in the coal mine for how other fashion brands are performing,” as Markets Insider put it last month, its closest rivals will likely also continue to fare well, especially since, as Dalton notes, the fashion industry’s conglomerates “appear to have gained an advantage compared with single-brand houses because their labels can share know-how and pool costs in areas such as marketing, logistics and real estate.”

And if the recent acquisition talks between LVMH and Tiffany & Co. are any indication, the consolidation of brands and groups will likely only continue, thereby, boosting the prowess of those at the top.