Investment vehicles associated with French luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (MC) have amassed assets totaling €4 billion ($5.2 billion) in neighboring Belgium, where Arnault, LVMH's principal shareholder as well as its chairman, recently applied for citizenship.
Belgian central bank records show that 12 companies and a private foundation, all connected to LVMH and based in Brussels, have more than tripled their assets since 2008. Olivier Labesse, an LVMH spokesman, says the companies are investment vehicles for $26 billion-a-year LVMH, which he says has made Belgium its "operational center of finance" in recent years to take advantage of more-favorable tax treatment there. Other European companies are doing likewise, he says. The shifting of assets to Belgium "has nothing to do" with Arnault's personal tax situation, says Labesse.