Italian businessman becomes Saks’ largest holder

CHICAGO/MILAN (BestGrowthStock) – Italian businessman Diego Della Valle has boosted his stake in luxury department store operator Saks Inc (SKS.N: ) to just above 19 percent, becoming the company’s largest shareholder and sending its shares to a two-year high.

Della Valle, the founder of Saks supplier Tod’s SpA (TOD.MI: ), said in a regulatory filing that he bought 7.65 million shares in the period October 12-21 and now holds 22.65 million shares.

Della Valle was not available to comment.

A Saks spokeswoman declined to comment on the filing.

Della Valle’s latest purchases push him ahead of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim as Saks’ top shareholder.

Nearly 11 months ago, Saks removed a “poison pill” aimed at averting a potential hostile takeover by Slim, who rapidly raised his stake in the company when the shares fell below $3 in November 2008 during the global financial crisis.

In a regulatory filing earlier this year, Slim said he held a 15.9 percent stake in Saks.

Della Valle bought 2.9 million shares October 12-18 for $29.3 million, including commissions, his filing said. On Tuesday he bought an additional 2.5 million shares for $27 million, and on Thursday he bought 2.25 million more for $24.8 million.

The shares were bought for investment purposes, the filing said.

The investment in Saks could prove to be a boon for Tod’s, one analyst said.

“This is the best investment for Della Valle in the last two-three years,” the Milan-based analyst, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

“It will help Tod’s achieve a higher visibility in the U.S., where the group still has a relatively small market share. Tod’s revenues are likely to grow by 10-15 percent in the U.S,” he said.

Tod’s, best known for its soft-pebbled loafers and luxury handbags, had first-half sales of 377.5 million euros, up 5.2 percent from a year earlier. Della Valle has said he expects an even better second half.

Tod’s shares closed up 2.1 percent in Milan.

Saks shares were up 41 cents at $10.53 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They rose as high as $11.00 earlier in the session.

(Reporting by Brad Dorfman in Chicago and Antonella Ciancio in Milan, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John Wallace)

Italian businessman becomes Saks’ largest holder