PARIS — PPR’s caution was justified.

French retailer Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, which owns 53 percent of Italy’s Gucci Group, said net income for 2001 fell 1.9 percent to $662.4 million from $675 million in 2001. Excluding goodwill and amortization effects, net income inched up 1.4 percent to $783.7 million from $772.7 million in in the prior year. Sales for the year rose 12.3 percent to $24.5 billion. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange.

Calling 2001 “a difficult year,” Serge Weinberg, chairman of PPR, told a press conference here that the company’s performance was hurt by the slowdown of the North American economy. PPR issued a profit warning in January when it released fourth-quarter sales. Investors brushed off Thursday’s results, sending PPR’s stock ahead 1.2 percent to close at $116.20 on the Paris Bourse.

“Our assumptions for 2002 are conservative,” said Weinberg. “Although the [2001] results were below expectations, we have started 2002 with a much improved cost structure.”

Weinberg said that PPR had begun preparing for an economic downturn as early as the first half of last year.

Meanwhile, Weinberg touted Gucci and its recently acquired Yves Saint Laurent brand. PPR gained majority control of Gucci last September.

Joining Weinberg for the presentation, Gucci chairman and chief executive officer Domenico De Sole said Gucci would report figures on March 21. “I can confirm that revenues will be about $2.3 billion,” he said. “I can state that operating profit will exceed 29 percent of sales. And I can confirm that I am totally confident that we will meet market expectations.”

De Sole reiterated that YSL, currently in the red, should break even in the second half of 2003, and turn a profit in 2004. He said YSL would launch its first timepiece in May in Paris. He added that YSL would open stores in San Francisco, London, Bal Harbour, Milan, Taipei and Kyoto this year. Additionally, negotiations are under way for stores in Moscow, Beverly Hills and Hawaii that should open within the next 12 months.

“Tom [Ford, Gucci’s creative director] and I feel like we are at the same position we were in 1994-95 at Gucci,” said De Sole. “We are seeing the fruits of our labor.”

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