Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The deal will be effectively concluded once auction law reform is passed by the French government allowing foreign auction houses to hold sales there.

Phillips' chief executive Chris Thomson confirmed that the two auction houses would develop a close working relationship and that there were immediate opportunities for Phillips.

“The deal gives Phillips huge gravitas in the French marketplace,” a view reflected by LVMH president Bernard Arnault, who said: “Tajan is the number one auction house in France and is responsible for the finest sales in the country.”

Mr Thomson sees the access to Tajan's international clients as the first obvious bonus to Phillips. “Maître Tajan has many international clients but his business is all based in France,” he said. “Many of his clients need services abroad and that's where Phillips could help.” The new relationship will also increase the competition for Christie's and Sotheby's in securing prestige sales such as private collections and chateau contents in the newly opened French market.

The world's three leading auction houses will now all have immediate access to prestigious salerooms in Paris's fashionable eighth arrondissement as soon as the reform is passed.

Tajan is about a third of the size of Phillips' conventional auction business. As reported in Antiques Trade Gazette No 1421, its 1999 sales totalled Fr421m (£40.7m).

Mr Thomson said it was too early to say exactly how Phillips would have to review their business plans to take full advantage of the new relationship, but he told the Antiques Trade Gazette: “The acquisition of Tajan puts a whole new level of energy under our European agenda.”