By  on October 19, 2005

PARIS — Undented even by hurricanes, luxury's smooth ride continues for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which reported a 12 percent organic rise in third-quarter sales to 3.43 billion euros, or $4.18 billion.

"We really expect the rest of the year will be in line with what we've seen," finance director Jean-Jacques Guiony said during a conference call Tuesday. "The growth is coming from all directions."

He characterized LVMH's performance as "outstanding," driven by double-digit gains for the cash-cow Louis Vuitton brand, a continued rebound in watches and jewelry and strong momentum across all geographic regions. The world's largest luxury group also reiterated its target of a "significant" increase in operating profits for the year.

In the U.S., Guiony characterized third-quarter luxury sales as "robust," citing an acceleration in Vuitton sales, even if its New Orleans location was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.

"Katrina's impact has been fairly limited in our business," he said in reply to an analyst's question. "The U.S. market is showing no signs of slowing down."

Guiony cited strong growth for Fendi in the U.S., and good performances for Guerlain and Parfums Christian Dior, demonstrating the first benefits of a restructuring program.

Sales of watches and jewelry leaped 25 percent in the first nine months in the U.S., with selective retailing up 18 percent, led by Sephora and sephora.com.

The only blot Guiony spied on the U.S. market was champagne sales, which were "a little soft" in the third quarter owing to lighter deliveries of Dom Perignon, which should intensify in the run-up to the crucial holiday selling season.

Guiony would not give specific projections for the fourth quarter. Analysts tried to get at the question by asking him to quantify the increase in floor space for Vuitton during the period, which he pegged at 10 to 15 percent.

To be sure, LVMH said it expects its new Vuitton flagship on the Champs-Elysées, which opened to the public last week at the climax of Paris Fashion Week, to have a widespread impact on the recognition of the brand and its sales on a global scale. LVMH noted sales of denim handbags are among products driving Vuitton's business. Only Japan fell a few percentages short of double-digit gains in the quarter.

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