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Activist Bluebell wants Richemont to focus on jewellery, watches

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The logo of luxury goods company Richemont seen at its headquarters in Bellevue near Geneva
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ZURICH (Reuters) - Bluebell Capital Partners wants Swiss luxury goods group Richemont to concentrate on jewellery and watches, the activist fund manager told Reuters on Wednesday, saying such a move could double its share price in the medium term.

"We would like them to focus on what they are good at, which is hard luxury -- jewellery and watches," Bluebell partner Marco Taricco said in a telephone interview, a day after it emerged that the fund was seeking board changes at Richemont.

Sharpening its focus would help Richemont narrow the discount in valuation to French group Hermes, Taricco said, suggesting Richemont rename itself the Cartier group to capitalise on its "fantastic, iconic brand".

London-based Bluebell, with around 250 million euros in assets, grabbed the spotlight last year when its campaign at French group Danone led to a management overhaul.

The company has another campaign in France targeting construction materials giant Saint Gobain.

Bluebell was not working with activist investors and fellow Richemont shareholders Third Point and Artisan on its latest campaign although it knew them very well from other operations, Taricco said, adding: "I would expect them to be fully aligned with our view."

Bluebell has been invested in Richemont for 1-1/2 years and had a stake worth 105 million Swiss francs ($108 million), he said. Richemont has a market capitalisation of amost 55 billion Swiss francs, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

The company, which makes Cartier jewellery and IWC watches, made a mistake by taking ownership of loss-making online retail business YOOX Net-a-Porter (YNAP), he said.

Richemont, controlled by Chairman Johann Rupert's family via a dual-share capital structure that gives unlisted B shares half the voting rights, said on Tuesday it was reviewing Bluebell's request to amend statutes at the Sept. 7 annual meeting.

Bluebell is seeking a board seat for Francesco Trapani, the former head of Italian luxury label Bulgari and a Bluebell co-founder.

"You couldn't find a better candidate if you were looking around the planet," Taricco said.

($1 = 0.9711 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Michael Shields and Oliver Hirt; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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