PARIS (AP) _ LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton has bought Swiss watchmaker Ebel and prestigious Parisian jeweler Chaumet, further expanding its portfolio of watches, the French luxury goods group said today.

LVMH did not disclose terms of the deal. It had been the front-runner in the race for Ebel after rival Swiss watch company Swatch Group dropped out of the race because it found the asking price too high.

The French group bought Ebel and Chaumet from the Anglo-Bahraini investment fund InvestCorp.

LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault had expressed his desire to take the French luxury goods group into watches.

The purchase of Ebel and Chaumet follows LVMH's decision to launch a friendly takeover bid for the Swiss sports watchmaker Tag Heuer International.

The deals are the latest elements of a buying spree at LVMH that last week included the purchase, along with Italian fashion group Prada Holdings, of a majority stake in Fendi, the Rome-based furs and handbags house.

LVMH is thought to have edged out a number of other potential suitors for Ebel and Chaumet. As well as Swatch, investment group Vendome was said to have been interested in Ebel.

Based in the Swiss town of Chaux-de-Fonds, Ebel produces around 120,000 watches a year, both under its own name and on behalf of Paris-based jeweler Cartier.

Chaumet, a jeweler-watchmaker based in Paris, has its own shops in London and Monte Carlo as well as in the French capital.

In a statement, LVMH director-general Myron Ullman said that the purchase of Ebel and Chaumet will strengthen the company's position in the jewelry-watchmaking sector.

InvestCorp is thought to have favored the LVMH bid for Ebel because the French firm was ready to bid simultaneously for Chaumet.

The Anglo-Bahraini investment fund has owned Ebel since 1994 and Chaumet since 1987.