By  on November 20, 2006

LONDON — Booming sales of jewelry, leather accessories and luxury clothing at Compagnie Financière Richemont drove net profits up 22 percent to 645 million euros, or $815.9 million, on a 15.7 percent rise in sales to 2.3 billion euros, or $2.91 billion, in the first half ended Sept. 30.

This compares with net profits of 529 million euros, or $655.9 million, on sales of 1.99 billion euros, or $2.47 billion, in the corresponding period a year earlier. Currency conversions were made at average exchange rates for the respective periods.

The company said in a statement Friday that nearly all product categories registered double-digit sales increases worldwide, and that Dunhill and Lancel — both of which are undergoing a relaunch — had performed well.

Executive chairman Johann Rupert said in the statement that Richemont's performance for the full 2006-07 fiscal year would be "significantly ahead" of last year, despite tough comparisons with fiscal 2005-06.

In the statement, he said strong consumer demand at retail, coupled with double-digit sales growth in markets such as Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Europe, contributed to strong half-year results. "During the first half of the year, Richemont has benefited from strong demand in its major markets," said Rupert.

"The group has a globally diversified clientele and has demonstrated its capacity to develop quickly in new market areas — for example, China and Russia — at the same time as achieving good growth in established markets," he added.

However, Richemont spokesman Alan Grieve said the company was not expecting the 16 percent sales growth it witnessed during last year's Christmas season. He said the company would not be surprised by growth along the lines of 11 percent in the coming months.

Indeed, in the month of October, overall sales grew by 11 percent. "November and December are critical months for us, and barring any avian flus or terrorist attacks, we can build on the momentum in the first half. But you can never be sure; we're not in the business of selling cigarettes or baked beans, and we constantly rely on our customers' feel-good factor," he said.

Richemont said jewelry sales in the first half rose by 13 percent, with double-digit growth reported by Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Sales from Richemont's specialist watchmakers rose 14 percent, while those of writing instrument companies rose 24 percent.

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