PARIS — Kering continued to strongly outperform its luxury sector peers in the second quarter, boosted by another outstanding performance from Gucci that helped propel operating profit for its luxury activities to a record level in the first half.
And while Gucci accounts for more than a third of the group’s revenues, the French conglomerate said it has two more powerhouses waiting in the wings, with Saint Laurent and Balenciaga on track to reach revenues of 3 billion euros and 1 billion euros, respectively, in the medium-term.
Kering said Thursday that net profit surged 77.6 percent to 825.8 million euros in the first half. Recurring operating income jumped 57.1 percent to 1.27 billion euros, while the operating margin reached 17.5 percent, up 330 basis points versus the same period a year earlier.
The parent of Bottega Veneta, Brioni and Boucheron said group sales rose 25.4 percent to 3.72 billion euros in the three months to June 30, with Western Europe and Asia-Pacific driving retail sales thanks to a rebound in tourism. In organic terms, revenues were up 24.6 percent in the second quarter.
“Thanks to the execution of our strategy, we achieved outstanding revenue growth in the first half, clearly outperforming the sector, and delivered record profits and operating margins,” François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of Kering, said in a statement published after the market close.
“This excellent first half raises our confidence in the group’s capacity to realize another year of growth and improved operating performances,” he added.
The figures come on the heels of a 15 percent rise in revenues at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in the second quarter. Burberry’s reported retail revenue rose 13 percent in the period, while Hermès International said sales increased 9 percent.
Jean-François Palus, group managing director of Kering, cautioned that the group would face tougher comparatives in the second half, in addition to the potential impact of a stronger euro. Nonetheless, he sounded a triumphant note.
“The first half of the year has definitely been one for the record books,” he said on a conference call. “I don’t think there are many organizations of our size that are able to generate incremental revenues of 1.6 billion euros over a six-month period and to do so on the basis of a platform and footprint whose expansion has been marginal and purely organic.”
Gucci has undergone a reinvention at the hands of creative director Alessandro Michele and ceo Marco Bizzarri.
Organic sales at the maker of Dionysus handbags and Princetown loafers rose 39.3 percent in the second quarter to 1.48 billion euros, beating market expectations. This compared with 48.3 percent growth in the first quarter of this year and with a 7.4 percent increase in the second quarter of 2016.
Gucci’s recurring operating income gained 69 percent in the first half, while operating margin increased by 440 basis points to 32 percent.
Sales in directly operated stores rose 46.2 percent at constant exchange rates in the first half, despite a slight reduction in the number of stores compared with the same period last year, while the brand’s online sales progressed by more than 60 percent.
“A spectacular revival of our largest house remains unparalleled in the world of luxury. Gucci is working on every driver and KPI that will allow for the full potential of all categories to be achieved and thereby sustain momentum in the business,” said Palus.
Rogerio Fujimori, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said its consumer surveys suggested further share gains for the Italian brand. “Gucci is the hottest luxury brand today so expectations are understandably high and investor sentiment is overwhelmingly bullish on the stock,” he said in a research note.
Jean-Marc Duplaix, chief financial officer of Kering, said the margin at Gucci was boosted by the elimination of markdowns. He predicted that Kering would be able to progressively grow the brand’s EBIT margin despite continued investments in store refurbishments, communications and online sales.
“For the full year, let’s say that a 32 percent margin looks like a good estimate of what we can deliver,” he told analysts on the call.
Gucci saw high double-digit growth in all product categories in the second quarter, leading to some shortages, but Duplaix saw room for improvement in eyewear and said the brand was fine-tuning its jewelry and watch offering. The first fragrance under Michele’s direction will hit the market in the second half.
The executive noted its e-commerce site was launched in China in July, “with already a lot of success and with very encouraging trends because it allows Gucci to penetrate further the Chinese territory and also to sell in some tier-three cities.”
The luxury division as a whole — which also includes brands such as Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen — saw revenues increase 25.3 percent in organic terms.
“Our luxury activities achieved a first-half EBIT of 1.25 billion euros, up 49 percent, our highest first-half result ever,” said Duplaix.
Palus emphasized that Gucci was not the only brand driving growth, pointing to another strong performance from Saint Laurent, which posted organic growth of 23.7 percent in the second quarter, as well as the momentum of Balenciaga and continued efforts to turn around Bottega Veneta.
“Not only is Gucci continuing to achieve strong growth in all categories and all geographies with no contribution from in-store markdowns, but virtually all other houses and brands are growing. In fact, about 45 percent of the incremental group revenues in the six months were not generated by Gucci,” he said.
During a recent investor day, Francesca Bellettini, ceo of Saint Laurent, said she is aiming for revenues of 3 billion euros in the medium-term after breaking the barrier of one billion euros in 2016. Commenting on Saint Laurent’s target, Palus said: “Its current trajectory is fully consistent with its ambitions.”
Meanwhile, Balenciaga — for which the group does not break out revenues — appears on track to become the third powerhouse in its portfolio. “The brand is fully on a roll, enjoying an outstanding creativity and spectacular trading momentum, so now we can consider the one-billion mark as a first midterm milestone,” Palus said.
He said Bottega Veneta soon would undergo a “radical reset” of its communications strategy, with a strong digital component, but would probably not reap the benefits of its overall turnaround strategy until the first quarter of 2018.
Alexander McQueen, meanwhile, turned in an “excellent” first-half performance, according to Kering. Palus added the group was pleased with progress at men’s wear brand Brioni, and confident in its new direction under recently appointed ceo Fabrizio Malverdi and creative director Nina-Maria Nitsche.
Margins at jewelry brands Boucheron and Pomellato will come under pressure in the near-term due to investments in communications and store openings aimed at increasing their share of voice and expanding their footprint into new territories like China, the executive said.
The sports and lifestyle division, which revolves around Puma, posted a 14.7 percent rise in the second quarter. As a result, first-half revenues topped the two-billion mark for the first time. As reported, Puma saw revenues increase 16 percent in the second quarter, with footwear the main driver.
Palus declined to comment on ongoing speculation that Kering will offload Puma, saying: “Our priority remains on sustaining growth, enhancing profitability and improving cash flow.” He added that the group is not contemplating any acquisitions in the short-term.