Cartier

LONDON — A robust performance in the fourth quarter helped bolster fiscal full-year sales at Compagnie Financière Richemont, which fell 8 percent at reported rates, and 5 percent at constant ones, to 13.14 billion euros.

The parent of brands including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Dunhill said sales in the fourth quarter were up 30 percent at actual rates, and 36 percent at constant ones, due to strong demand in Asia-Pacific, and in particular mainland China, which saw triple-digit growth in the three months to March 31.

Full-year profit was up 38 percent to 1.29 billion euros.

Richemont shares were up 5.3 percent to 99.68 Swiss francs in late-morning trading.

In a year ravaged by COVID-19, digital sales also climbed in the triple digits, and now account for 21 percent of Richemont’s group sales.

The company said it was seeing a “strong start” to the new financial year “with accelerating trends across all business areas.”

Despite the pickup in performance, Richemont’s chairman, founder and shareholder of reference Johann Rupert sounded a typical note of caution.

He said although the pace of vaccination has gathered momentum, “volatility and low visibility are likely to prevail until there is herd immunity. There are still concerning COVID-19 developments in parts of the world that could slow down a global recovery, even though underlying demand seems strong with supportive central bank actions, substantial government stimulus packages, and real estate and stock markets at all-time highs.”

Rupert warned that the world “will need to learn how to live with the virus probably for much longer than we had hoped,” and said Richemont’s focus will remain on “safeguarding our colleagues, partners and assets while maintaining the necessary agility and flexibility to face uncertainties. We will also continue taking decisive action to transform our business with a focus on digital initiatives, customer-centricity and forging strategic partnerships.”

Over the past year, Richemont has forged landmark cooperation deals and partnerships in the digital and ESG space with companies including Alibaba, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Bulgari.

Rupert also paid tribute to Alber Elbaz, who died in April. Richemont had entered into a joint venture with the late designer that launched months before Elbaz died of COVID-19 complications.

“Alber was incredibly sensitive and caring, and, in addition to his genuine empathy, possessed great wit, talent and creativity. His dream of ‘smart fashion that cares’ was inclusive, positive and innovative. He will be hugely missed by all of us who had the good fortune to know him or work with him,” Rupert said.

He added during a call that the future of AZ Factory, the fashion house that was formed as a venture between Richemont and Elbaz, was still to be decided. The first collection launched earlier this year.

Rupert said everyone is still in a state of shock “and great sorrow” about the designer’s death at the age of 59 in Paris. He said Richemont is in discussions with Elbaz’s partner Alex Koo, and his family and nephews, about how they want to proceed, “and it would be disrespectful to comment” before those talks are concluded.

He pointed out that there are collections that Elbaz had designed that will still be presented, and noted AZ Factory was originally conceived as a fashion and lifestyle incubator, leaving the door open for the company to move forward.