LONDON — Shares in Compagnie Financière Richemont were down 1.7 percent in mid-morning trading on Friday, after the group confirmed a 35.4 percent drop in net profit for 2014-’15 and revealed the new fiscal year is off to a disappointing start.
Shares were down to 85.35 Swiss francs, or $91.28, at 11:30 a.m. CET after Richemont said that sales in April, the first month of the 2015-’16 year, had increased 9 percent at actual exchange rates, but were down 8 percent at constant ones.
The company said, however, that the first two weeks of May indicated “some normalization” of the wholesale market.
In a flash statement following the results, Barclays in London called the April decline “disappointing,” and adding that trading results for that month are “likely to be taken poorly with concerns about the Hong Kong market prominent.”
In its note, Morgan Stanley said the April figures were “materially below expectations,” which ranged from minus 2.5 percent to plus 4 percent.
“The company highlights April was impacted by weaker wholesale revenues. Third-party buyers are likely to have waited for lower price lists to be implemented in May,” the bank pointed out.
In his report, Thomas Chauvet of Citi noted that in the month of April, the Asia region, not including Japan, was down 20-25 percent, contributing to the overall decline at constant-exchange rates. Luxury goods groups have been battling headwinds in Hong Kong and Macau, including political protests and a crackdown on gifting.
Foreign exchange losses plagued Richemont’s bottom line in the 2014-’15 fiscal year as the company reported a 35.4 percent drop in net profit to 1.33 billion euros, or $1.69 billion.
Last month, Richemont, parent of brands including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, IWC and Dunhill, issued an unscheduled announcement that full-year net profit would plunge 36 percent, due chiefly to non-cash, currency translation effects linked to the investment strategy for its 5.4 billion euro, or $6 billion, cash pile and to its hedging program.
Over the past year, currency fluctuations have been creating chaos on the balance sheets of public companies that often lose money on a reported basis when their earnings abroad are translated back into their strong home currencies.
Richemont, like other luxury brands, has also been suffering in the high-margin markets of Hong Kong and Macau, where political unrest and a crackdown on gifting continue to take a bite out of sales.
Earlier this year, the Geneva-based luxury goods group also suffered from the Swiss National Bank’s surprise decision to de-peg the franc from the euro. It suffered short-term losses, reflected in the net profit figure, and said its costs, measured in euros, would increase as a result.
The company has more than 8,700 employees in its manufacturing, distribution and head office functions in Switzerland and said that removing those functions from the country is not an alternative.
In the period ended March 31, sales were 10.41 billion euros, or $13.22 billion, 4 percent higher than last year on a reported basis and 1 percent higher at constant-exchange rates.
Operating profit in the period grew 10 percent, boosted by an extraordinary gain from a real estate disposal on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Richemont said that operating profit was stable compared with last year.
In a statement, Richemont called is results “resilient, despite a difficult situation in Hong Kong and Macau, a demanding basis for comparison in Japan, and the generally volatile economic environment experienced by our customers and retail distribution partners.”
The company said its jewelry brands and specialist watchmakers delivered sales growth and broadly maintained their operating margins through successful product launches and, in certain markets, price increases.
The company said that lower precious metal prices and cost containment measures helped mitigate the single-digit sales growth and the impact of foreign exchange rate movements.
As reported, Richemont got off to a rocky start in the first half, with profits falling 23.5 percent in the six months to Sept. 30 due to volatile trading conditions worldwide and to charges linked to the firm’s hedging program.
First-half sales were up 2 percent at actual exchange rates and 4 percent at constant ones.