PARIS — Louis Vuitton is on a roll in Japan, with sales last year vaulting 15 percent to a record $1.14 billion, converted from the yen at current exchange rates.

Luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton made the disclosure about its most profitable brand last Wednesday in tandem with an announcement made by its Japanese affiliate, Louis Vuitton Japan KK. The French group is slated to announce complete 2002 sales this week.

Japanese consumers account for at least 30 percent of global luxury goods, and analysts estimate the Japanese market represents about 38 percent of Vuitton sales. Last fall, LVMH opened the largest Vuitton store in the world in Tokyo’s Omotesando district, an eight-story, 36,000-square-foot behemoth. Vuitton has 44 doors in the country, including 35 in-store shops in department stores.

Paris-based Merrill Lynch analyst Antoine Colonna said the Japanese figures bode well for LVMH’s entire fashion and leather goods division and suggests it had a "reasonably good Christmas season." In a note released Wednesday, the forecast sales in that division should be up 17 percent in the fourth quarter, with overall group sales up about 8 percent in the quarter.

After the news, LVMH shares fell 1.6 percent Wednesday to close at $40.33 on the Paris Bourse (converted from the euro at current exchange rates), but rebounded slightly Thursday, closing up 0.2 percent at $40.65.

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