Pandora

PARIS — Pandora posted 4 percent organic sales growth over the fourth quarter, capping off a challenging year and swinging to positive territory for the first time in three years even as the company flagged a clouded business outlook this year.

The Copenhagen-based jeweler signaled “elevated uncertainty” for the coming months, citing the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Nonetheless, it is projecting a return to topline growth in 2021, excluding the effect of the coronavirus crisis.

“Despite these significant disruptions, we managed to navigate the business to a very strong performance, leading to market share gains in many markets,” said Pandora chief executive officer Alexander Lacik.

“When we initiated the program two years ago, the objective was to stabilize the topline while maintaining industry-leading margins,” he told analysts in a conference call. He said turnaround efforts had moved forward even if the COVID-19 virus has “muddied the waters somewhat.”

Pandora, which has been hit hard by coronavirus store closures, has been undergoing a broad overhaul to boost its popularity and adjust to declining foot traffic in malls, where many of its stores are located. It has bulked up marketing efforts, streamlined product assortments and leaned into digital. It also opened dozens of pop-up stores in North America during the holiday season.

Company executives expect that around a quarter of its stores could be closed in the first half of the year.

Analysts applauded the performance but focused on the likely challenging path ahead.

“A visible brand turnaround in the middle of the pandemic. Pandora ended 2020 on a positive note,” said Anne-Laure Bismuth, an analyst with HSBC. She noted that the company’s management achieved “many milestones in terms of distribution, communication and product,” through its two-year restructuring program. Analysts at HSBC downgraded Pandora to hold from buy and cut earnings per share estimates by 2 percent to factor in a higher expected negative impact from foreign exchange rates and commodity prices.

“Pandora’s execution and relative improvement through 2020 is commendable,” said Piral Dadhania of RBC Europe. Dadhania, however, also stressed potential challenges ahead, including gross margin pressure from silver and gold prices, and foreign exchange rates reducing margin flexibility.

The early part of this year looks challenged with 30 percent of the global store network closed, Dadhania added.

“Easier wins under the Programme Now turnaround plan such as cost savings, closing a handful of unprofitable stores, range rationalization, developing a new branding and store concept and increasing marketing spend have largely been addressed and are in the early stages of deployment,” said the analyst, noting that margins could come under pressure if retail sales are flat or lower.

Revenue over the quarter came to 7.89 billion Danish kronor, or $1.27 billion, a 4 percent rise on an organic basis. Around 10 percent of stores were closed over the period. Organic sales for the year were down 11 percent, outperforming its target of down between 14 percent to 17 percent, communicated in November.

The company said it expects revenue growth to resume in 2021, excluding the impact from the coronavirus.

In Europe, the U.K. and Germany were most affected by the difficult trading conditions, and China continues to be a challenging market for the company.

“Hopefully we’ll turn it around,” said Lacik, referring to the Chinese market.

The brand is working on developing new product pillars while collaborations with “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars” and Millie Bobby Brown have bolstered the jeweler’s popularity.

Shares closed down 5.02 percent, or 31 Danish kronor to 585.60 Danish kronor.