MILAN — Things are looking up for Italian fashion group Aeffe SpA.

The company, which operates the Alberta Ferretti, Moschino, and Pollini brands and produces collections for Jean Paul Gaultier, said Tuesday earnings climbed 20.3 percent in the first quarter to 6 million euros, or $9 million at average exchange, following revenue growth in its ready-to-wear and footwear and leather goods divisions.

That compares with a 17.3 percent drop in fourth-quarter net profits in 2007.

Aeffe executive chairman Massimo Ferretti also reported “midsingle-digit growth” in orders of the group’s fall-winter collections and added, “We are confident that this year, the group will further improve its results compared to 2007.”

Consolidated revenues for the three months ended March 31 increased 4.6 percent to 91 million euros, or $136.3 million, despite “a difficult macroeconomic environment, particularly in the U.S., Japan” and Italy, Ferretti said.

At constant exchange and excluding the effects of the sale of a stake in the Narciso Rodriguez brand to Liz Claiborne Inc. in May 2007, consolidated sales grew 8.2 percent.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were up 5.3 percent to 16 million euros, or $24 million at average exchange.

This was mainly due to 7.2 percent revenue growth at Moschino and 13.8 percent at Pollini, which together accounted for more than 60 percent of group turnover in the quarter.

Alberta Ferretti reported a 2.2 percent dip in revenues, which Aeffe attributed to higher-than-anticipated sales of spring-summer collections already delivered in the last three months of 2007, compared with the fourth quarter of 2006.

Revenues at Jean Paul Gaultier, which Aeffe operates under license, dropped 6.7 percent.

Sales of other brands increased 4 percent — although on an organic basis and at constant exchange, they jumped 37.4 percent.

Geographically speaking, revenues grew the most in Russia, up 29.4 percent to 7.1 million euros, or $10.6 million, although more mature markets like Italy — Aeffe’s biggest market ­— and the rest of Europe reported upper-single-digit gains. That offset sales decreases of 28.1 percent in the U.S. to 7.3 million euros, or $10.9 million, and 15.6 percent in Japan to 5.2 million euros, or $7.8 million.

This story first appeared in the May 15, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

By channel, wholesale revenues grew 5.8 percent to 69.3 million euros, or $103.8 million, while sales at directly operated stores dipped 5.8 percent to 16.1 million euros, or $24.1 million.

Aeffe’s stock has been under pressure since listing on the Milan Stock Exchange STAR segment for small companies in July. Aeffe’s shares closed up Tuesday 0.06 percent to 1.80 euros, or $2.78, less than half their price at the group’s initial public offering.

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