LONDON — Johann Rupert, executive chairman of Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, said he's upbeat about the luxury goods market generally — and with regard to his own company's performance."I remain optimistic for the luxury goods market and that optimism is borne out by the high rate of growth in sales that Richemont has seen in recent months," he said in a statement Thursday.The statement reported overall sales growth of 16 percent in the five-month period to Aug. 31. The biggest growth area was watches, where sales rose 23 percent. The highest-performing geographic region was Asia-Pacific with sales growth of 20 percent."Our specialist watchmakers, in particular, have performed impressively. The increase has reflected the new product launches that we have seen over the last year and the increased sell-in to our retail partners," added Rupert.The Geneva-based Richemont owns numerous brands, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chloé, Alfred Dunhill, Montblanc, Lancel, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget and IWC. Richemont also holds an 18.5 percent stake in British American Tobacco, an investment that has provided a steady flow of cash. Indeed, Rupert said Richemont would receive dividends of 170 million pounds, or nearly $310 million, from BAT during the current fiscal year. Rupert warned, however, that growth rates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006 would likely not match those of the first five months, due to tough comparisons with last year. He said that was especially true for the watch business.Richemont only supplied sales growth percentages. The company will issue full interim results on Nov. 17 for the six months ending Sept. 30.Rupert said the 13 percent rise in jewelry sales was powered by the launch of new product lines at Cartier, Richemont's biggest-selling brand. Those lines include the Tankissime and Pasha 42 watch models, and the Panther yellow gold and Baby Love jewelry lines.He said Lancel is showing signs of recovery with "good" sales growth, although Alfred Dunhill reported a "more modest" increase during the period despite its strong performance in Asia-Pacific and increased demand in the U.S.By division, the writing instrument manufacturers, including Montblanc, reported a 13 percent spike in sales, followed by the leather and accessories houses, which reported a 6 percent sales increase. Sales at Richemont's "other businesses" division rose 27 percent and Rupert said that growth was driven chiefly by sales at the Paris-based fashion house Chloé.By region, sales in the Americas grew by 18 percent, followed by Europe with 15 percent and Japan with 11 percent.
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