MILAN — Bulgari chief executive officer Francesco Trapani warned that the SARS outbreak could cause the jeweler to miss its financial targets for the year.

"For 2003, we had forecast a positive result and until just recently, we were in line with those objectives," Trapani told shareholders at the group’s annual meeting. "But now there are fears that it could go differently."

Trapani said sales in Hong Kong saw a double-digit decrease, but he did not specify a time period for the drop. He noted, though, that Bulgari posted a "good" first quarter.

The executive already warned last month that weak market conditions could derail Bulgari from meeting its 2003 target for 10 percent profit and revenue growth. "I think this week [the market] is worse than it was in 2002. If it continues like this, it will be difficult to reach those objectives," he said at that time.

Last month, Bulgari said its net profit for the year ended Dec. 31 rose 11.6 percent to $83.6 million, thanks to cost cuts and improved efficiencies. Sales rose 1 percent to $850 million. Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange rates.

Japan accounted for 21 percent of total sales. The remainder of the Far East generated 17 percent.

Trapani also reiterated Tuesday his denial of speculation that the company is considering delisting its shares from the Milan stock exchange.

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