MILAN — Luxottica Group SpA experienced a strong first quarter driven by growth in emerging markets and in the U.S.



For the three months ended March 31, the Italian eye wear company registered a 20 percent increase in net profits, reaching 114.7 million euros, or $156 million compared with 95.1 million euros, or $131.2 million from the same period last year. Sales gained 11.8 percent to 1.55 billion euros, or $2.1 billion.


Dollar amounts have been converted at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.


Luxottica’s stable of labels includes Bulgari, Burberry, Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany, among others. “Our brand portfolio is in very good shape,” said chief executive officer Andrea Guerra, adding that “premium and luxury brands posted very positive results with some brands really outperforming expectations.…” Sales for in-house brand Oakley continued to grow, up 11 percent for the quarter.


Geographically, both the optical and sun divisions of the company grew in every market, particularly in the U.S., where sales rose 10 percent driven by a robust performance by the wholesale division, which was up 28 percent. Additionally, comp sales at retail arms LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut increased by 7.1 and 10.5 percent, respectively, in the region.


Guerra underlined the importance of emerging markets, saying the company’s roots “grow deeper daily and we are increasingly managing these key markets with the same confidence we enjoy in our more established markets.”


Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) grew 16.6 percent in the quarter compared with the same period last year to 283 million euros, or $384.8 million.


“The results obtained in the first quarter are an excellent starting point for 2011 — we look to the year optimistically,” said Guerra.


As of March 31, net debt had been reduced to 2.07 billion euros, or $2.81 billion from 2.33 billion euros, or $3.03 billion at the end of March 2010 thanks to exchange rates.

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