By  on February 1, 2006

MILAN — A strong holiday season and growth across all product categories in every region helped Bulgari SpA post a 13.2 percent increase in sales for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 to 311.4 million euros, or $370.5 million. This compares with sales of 275 million euros, or $356.7 million, in the corresponding period a year earlier.

Sales for the year rose 10.5 percent to 918.7 million euros, or $1.14 billion, from 831.6 million euros, or $1.03 billion. Cur­rency conversions were made at average exchange rates for the respective periods.

At constant exchange rates, sales would have increased by 12.7 percent in the fourth quarter and by 10.6 percent for the year.

Chief executive officer Fran­cesco Trapani said in a phone interview that he was satisfied with the results, which were in line with his expectations. Trapani pointed to the "excellent sales during the holiday season," which confirmed the company's forecasts.

"These figures allow us to be optimistic for the year 2006. We expect to further grow the company in terms of sales and profits in the high single-digit range, a growth of about 8 or 9 percent at constant exchange rates," said Trapani.

Trapani once again dismissed market speculation that Bulgari may be for sale and reiterated the company has "never received offers, never negotiated a sale and is not interested in selling."

In 2005, while accessories showed the most significant growth — a 24.1 percent hike compared with 2004 at constant exchange rates — all categories showed sales increases: jewelry, Bulgari's largest revenue generator, grew 7.5 percent, watches 4.5 percent and perfumes 18.5 percent.

"Accessories are increasingly becoming an important category for us, accounting for sales of about 77 million euros [or $91.6 million]," said Trapani. At the end of last year, Bulgari opened two stores in Japan, in Osaka and Tokyo's Ginza district, dedicated to accessories. Trapani said the company plans to open three or four other accessories stores in Asia and Europe this year. In addition to leather goods and silk ties and scarves, Trapani said Bulgari has expanded the assortment of silver objects, such as pens, key chains and cuff links.The Assioma watch, launched in September, helped drive sales in the category. "Its design is highly unusual, and I believe this unique style helped us hit the mark in a very competitive market," said Trapani.

Europe showed signs of recovery with 15.4 percent sales growth. "We worked well with local communities and were supported by the tourist flow," said Trapani. Sales in Italy also grew 15 percent. Japan showed 17.4 growth, while sales in the U.S. increased 12.5 percent.

In the fourth quarter, watch sales grew 16.5 percent, jewelry 8.2 percent, perfumes 14.8 percent and accessories 11.7 percent. Japan and Europe grew 19.7 percent and 33.6 percent, respectively, with sales in Italy alone rising 8.4 percent. The Middle East showed an increase of 22.2 percent. Sales in the U.S. were in line with the same period in the previous year, up 1.1 percent. Bulgari, however, pointed to a "very challenging base of a 21 percent growth in the quarter of the two previous years" in America.

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