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Swatch buys Harry Winston units

NEW YORK — The Swatch Group agreed Monday to make its largest acquisition to date, taking over the watch and jewelry business of Harry Winston, which plans to shift its focus to its diamond mining activities.

Swatch, the world’s largest maker of watches, said it would pay $750 million in cash for Harry Winston and assume $250 million of debt. The publicly traded Harry Winston Diamond Corp., based in Toronto, will be renamed Dominion Diamond after the sale is completed.

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For Swatch, the purchase of Harry Winston’s jewelry and watch business, based in New York, expands its vast portfolio by adding a prominent jewelry brand immortalized decades ago by Carol Channing on Broadway and Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood.

Swatch is paying about 23 times estimated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization of Harry Winston, said Rene Weber, a watch analyst at Bank Vontobel in Zurich, who welcomed the takeover. He said that the price was high but justified, considering that Swatch has about $2.2 billion in cash reserves.

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