Swatch in $1 billion deal for Harry Winston brand

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GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland's biggest watch maker, Swatch Group AG, will pay about $1 billion to acquire Canada's Harry Winston watch and jewelry brand, officials from both companies said Monday.

The Biel, Switzerland-based company has agreed to pay $750 million to acquire the brand from Toronto-based Harry Winston Diamond Corp. and will also assume as much as $250 million in debt, a joint statement said.

The acquisition includes the Harry Winston production company in Geneva and more than 500 employees globally.

Swatch Group's chairwoman, Nayla Hayek, said the addition of a jewelry-watch brand "brilliantly complements the prestige segment" of Swatch's portfolio, helping it compete against luxury watch makers.

Harry Winston Diamond Corp.'s chairman, Robert Gannicott, said his company, which supplies rough diamonds to the global market, would change its name to Dominion Diamond Corporation.

"At the time that we purchased the Harry Winston brand, resource investment opportunities for diamonds were rare and expensive following the euphoria of the Canadian diamond discoveries, and the involvement of the large international mining companies," Gannicott said.

"Today there is a range of diamond resource opportunities while the value of heritage luxury brands has increased dramatically," he added. "This transaction represents a sound return on our original investment."

The deal is subject to regulatory approval.

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