On the plus side, the luxury giant said it expects operating income to “rebound materially” this year thanks to a broad cost-cutting program and the prospect of growth from the likes of its now wholly-owned Fendi and of Donna Karan, the acquisition of which it completed this month.
For 2001, LVMH said it expects income from operations to total $1.4 billion, 20 percent less than in 2000. The downward revision follows three earlier profit warnings as the economic aftershocks of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America rippled through the luxury sector. Most recently, LVMH said it was expecting a 10 to 15 percent earnings drop. Adding to its woes is the economic crisis in Argentina, which “further accentuated this trend.”
Fourth-quarter sales dropped 4 percent to $3.12 billion. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange.
DFS, part of the group’s selective retail division, saw sales plummet 33 percent in the fourth quarter and fall 10 percent for the year to $3.1 billion. Given “no certainty on travel recovery or of the direction of the yen,” LVMH said it would “right-size” DFS to adapt to a new environment.
LVMH said it does not expect any improvement in the business climate until the second half, but noted some positive signs during the last quarter. Group sales last year dropped 6 percent in October and 5 percent in November, but were flat in December, boosted by sales to local customers in Western Europe and Japan.
Analysts said the revenue figures were in line with their expectations, which suggests LVMH cut its cost structure in 2001 to improve its fortunes in a difficult climate in 2002.
Lauding its leaner organization and the promise of better operating income, investors sent LVMH’s shares up 2.6 percent to close at $40.05 on the Paris Bourse.
At Louis Vuitton, still the main engine of the group, sales leaped 10 percent in December and 9 percent for the year. The company attributes this “infatuation” with Vuitton to new products introduced by creative director Marc Jacobs and consumer appreciation for high-quality products.
Led by Vuitton, the fashion and leather goods division boasted the best performance of all LVMH’s sundry business groups, with 2001 sales up 13 percent to $3.2 billion. But LVMH noted that all the brands in the division increased their sales last year. These include Givenchy, Celine, Loewe, Christian Lacroix and Kenzo. Fourth-quarter sales rose 5 percent to $853.1 million.
Parfums Christian Dior and Hennessy cognac were also singled out for honorable mention by Toni Belloni, LVMH’s group managing director. “Once again, our exceptional portfolio of star brands showed itself to be a unique and valuable asset, strengthening us in times of crisis and achieving gains in market share,” he said in a statement.
Sales in the perfume and cosmetics division grew 8 percent to $2.0 billion, outpacing global market growth of about 3 percent. LVMH credited successful launches by its key brands, Christian Dior and Kenzo, for the gains, as well as the successful U.S. launches of the fragrances Michael by Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs.
The watches and jewelry division saw its sales drop 12 percent to $480 million, due mainly to the termination of third-party manufacturing contracts. Fourth-quarter revenues were down 20 percent to $132.4 million. Sales for the year in the wines and spirits division dipped 4 percent to $2.0 billion.
Separately, Christian Dior SA, the holding company which includes LVMH and Christian Dior Couture, said 2001 sales grew 6 percent to $11.2 billion.