By  on April 26, 2006

LONDON — Sustained consumer demand, a stable dollar and yen and double-digit growth in its watchmaking division all helped boost sales at Compagnie Financière Richemont SA to rise by 17 percent in the year ending March 31.

Sales increased to 4.31 billion euros, or $5.25 billion, from 3.67 billion euros, or $4.62 billion, the previous year. The unaudited figures were reported Tuesday, ahead of full profits and sales results to be published June 8. The rise in sales was described as "ahead of consensus" by Antoine Belge, analyst at HSBC in Paris, who said it was the continuation of a positive trend in Richemont's sales growth seen at the end of 2005.

Sales across the group's specialist watchmaking division grew by 22 percent, with a particularly high demand for the brands Vacheron Constantin, IWC and Panerai across all regions, the statement said. At Richemont's jewelry houses, sales rose by 15 percent, with Cartier's performance particularly strong in the Americas, Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. Van Cleef & Arpels also saw "very good" growth in sales in Europe, the company said.

The group's leather and accessories houses, which include Alfred Dunhill and Lancel, grew less aggressively, by 9 percent, during the period. Richemont attributed this to a "challenging market" for the company's products in Japan, which offset Dunhill's double-digit growth in the Asia-Pacific region and Lancel's double-digit sales growth in the European market.

Sales at Chloé, which Richemont said "more than doubled" during the period, were unaffected by the departure of designer Phoebe Philo. They contributed to a rise of 32 percent in sales in the group's "other businesses" division. The company said the sales figures for the period in that division included sales to May 31 for the casual men's wear company Hackett, which Richemont sold in June, and full-year sales for Old England, the Paris-based retailer the company sold in March. The group's overall retail sales increased by 17 percent to 1.76 billion euros, or $2.14 billion, from 1.51 billion euros, or $1.9 billion.

Currency conversions were made at average exchange rates for the respective periods.

By region, growth was strongest in the Americas, where sales rose 26 percent, and which accounted for 20 percent of the group's total revenues during the period. They were followed by sales in the Asia Pacific, which rose by 19 percent, and in Europe, which increased 15 percent. In Japan, sales rose 13 percent, which Richemont attributed to "the improved economic situation" in the country.

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