By  on November 7, 2007

PARIS — PPR, the French conglomerate controlled by billionaire François Pinault, said strength at Gucci Group and the acquisition of Puma propelled third-quarter sales ahead 21.9 percent.

Sales in the three months through Sept. 30 reached 5.19 billion euros, or $7.13 billion, from 4.26 billion euros, or $5.43 billion, a year ago, inflated by revenue generated from Puma, in which PPR bought a 62.9 percent stake for 3.33 billion euros, or $4.57 billion. Currency conversions were made at average exchange rates for the respective periods.

On a comparable basis, group sales advanced 6.8 percent, led by 10.5 percent growth at luxury division brands, which include Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent.

Jean-François Palus, PPR's chief financial officer, said on a conference call there was no slowdown in luxury despite recent turbulence in financial markets and the continued slide in the value of the dollar and yen against the euro.

Palus said luxury sales trends in October were in keeping with third-quarter figures. "So far, so good," he said.

The numbers beat most analysts' expectations and further suggested Europe's key luxury players are managing to stiff-arm recent financial market turmoil and the subprime meltdown in the U.S. Last month, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world's biggest luxury group, said its sales in the third quarter accelerated 10.3 percent.

Unlike LVMH, though, PPR did not highlight an improvement in business in Japan. Palus was quick to underline that sales in the Asia-Pacific region outside of Japan — which grew 26 percent in the quarter — now account for 18 percent of PPR's total luxury sales, ahead of Japan's 13 percent contribution. Palus said sales in China exploded 113 percent in the quarter.

Elsewhere, luxury sales gained 18 percent in Europe and 10 percent in America. "There are favorable dynamics for luxury everywhere outside of Japan," he said.

The Gucci brand reported sales gained 4.8 percent to 539.9 million euros, or $741.8 million, thanks to double-digit growth in sales of ready-to-wear and footwear. Leather goods sales advanced 8.8 percent. Turnaround efforts in the brand's timepiece category continued as the collections move more upscale. Jewelry sales grew 11 percent in the quarter, boosted by the advertising link with actress Drew Barrymore.

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