By  on July 18, 2007

Compagnie Financière Richemont SA posted a 9 percent rise in sales, to 1.27 billion euros, or $1.75 billion, from 1.16 billion euros, or $1.6 billion, in the three months ended June 30 because of strong demand for watches and double-digit growth from Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.

The Swiss company, parent of brands Alfred Dunhill, Chloé, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget and Baume & Mercier, reported first-quarter sales for the first time to conform with listing requirements of the SWX Swiss Exchange and of the European Union Transparency Directive, which took effect in January. Richemont will also report third-quarter sales.

On Wednesday, the company posted sales only; it will release its full, six-month interim report in mid-November.

The group’s watch division reported the highest sales growth, 18 percent, of all product categories. The gains came on the back of strong demand in all regions. Sales of writing instruments grew 9 percent, and of jewelry, 6 percent.

Sales at both Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels increased 12 percent in the quarter, the company said. The Asia-Pacific and European regions were strong drivers of growth for jewelry.

By region, Asia-Pacific reported a 20 percent spike in sales growth, followed by Europe, with 13 percent.

Cartier continues to be the cash cow for the brand, and represents about 46 percent of group sales and 60 percent of earnings before interest and taxes.

Analysts said the first-quarter results did not include the launch of the new Ballon Bleu watch line, which began shipping this month.

“We believe that Ballon Bleu is very likely to be a bigger success than last year’s La Dona [watch] line,” Goldman Sachs said in a report on Wednesday.

The Ballon Bleu made its debut at the 2007 edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. The watch, which was 15 months in production, is rounded above and below, and its winding mechanism is decorated with a cabochon sapphire.

The Goldman report added that Richemont’s sales figures came in one percentage point higher than expected, and showed a one percentage point acceleration compared with the fourth quarter of the 2006 fiscal year.Richemont said Dunhill reported sales growth of 7 percent at constant exchange rates during the period, mainly propelled by Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Chloé continued to perform well, although the rate of sales growth has slowed because of higher comparatives from the previous year.

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