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Swatch Growth Slows

Profits, sales rise for Swatch Group despite drop in demand.

PARIS — A “noticeable drop” in demand for watches in the last two months of 2008 dragged down full-year sales at Switzerland’s Swatch Group.

The maker of Omega, Swatch and Breguet watches said its net sales grew just 0.5 percent to 5.68 billion Swiss francs, or $5.26 billion at average exchange.

By division, watches and jewelry sales rose 1.8 percent to 4.79 billion Swiss francs, or $4.44 billion. The group’s production division, which manufactures watch components for third parties, grew 7.5 percent to 1.81 billion Swiss francs, or $1.68 billion.

The group, whose brand portfolio also includes Jacquet Droz, Blancpain and Glashütte Original, said its outlook for the next few months is “cautious but not pessimistic.”

Sales in January, plus orders for February and March, showed improvement, indicating “a rather manageable recession,” the company said, adding that it expects a rebound in the second half of 2009.

Swatch said it would continue to expand its own retail activities, which fared better than its wholesale doors.