PARIS — Hermès, driven by strong sales in Asia and the Americas, said on Monday that first-quarter revenue increased 7.7 percent to $371.1 million, or 314.5 million euros. All figures are converted at current exchange.
The results, slightly above market forecasts, were hurt by adverse currency exchange rates. Sales grew 14.4 percent at constant exchange values.
Hermès’ rising sales are the latest in a string of strong first-quarter performances among Europe’s luxury companies, which have experienced higher demand for their goods in an improving climate for that sector.
The revenue reflected a boost in tourism, especially in Asia and America, analysts said. Lower sales in Hermès’ home base in France, where revenue dipped 0.8 percent to 66.9 million, or 56.7 million euros, might indicate that high-end travel has yet to improve there.
In the rest of Europe, sales increased 4.8 percent to $61.1 million, or 51.8 million euros.
Japan, Hermès’ top market, had a sales jump of 16.5 percent to $111.5 million, or 94.5 million euros. The remainder of the Asia-Pacific region, stoked by strong business in Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, grew 21.6 percent to $67 million, or 56.8 million euros.
Sales in the Americas increased 27.6 percent to $52.4 million, or 44.4 million euros.
Hermès, which is usually cautious in its outlook, said in reporting 2003 profits in March that increases in the first half of this year would match growth in 2003, or about 10 percent at constant exchange rates. The company did not provide any guidance with the figures it published Monday in Balo, France’s official bulletin of record.
Analysts said the first-quarter performance was likely to propel the company beyond its targets.
“We feel that the growth in revenues achieved, excluding currency fluctuations, bodes well for the full year, particularly with the likely reduction of the negative currency impact in the second half,” Merrill Lynch analyst Antoine Colonna said in a research note.
The 24.3 percent boost in watch sales to $25.4 million, or 21.5 million euros, was the category that most surpassed analysts’ expectations.
“This confirms our view that the watch sector is recovering and reinforces our positive stance on Swatch and Richemont,” Goldman Sachs analyst Jacques-Franck Dossin said in an investment note.
Leather goods increased 22.3 percent to $142.7 million, or 120.9 million euros, a slower pace than expected, as did sales of silk scarves and ties, which went up 5.5 percent to $42.5 million, or 36 million euros.
Ready-to-wear sales were 5 percent higher to $84.8 million, or 71.9 million euros, and perfumes, spurred by the new women’s fragrance, Eau des Merveilles, increased 17.5 percent to $16.3 million, or 13.8 million euros. Tableware went up 7.3 percent to $9.1 million, or 7.7 million euros, while small leather goods and jewelry increased 23.8 percent to $37.4 million, or 31.7 million euros.
Analysts said recent strategic decisions, including the hirings of Jean Paul Gaultier to oversee women’s ready to wear and Jean-Claude Ellena to be the creative force in fragrance, or “nose,’’ positioned the firm for growth. Gaultier’s debut collection will arrive in stores for fall.
“We believe that both hires are very positive — first because they are in sectors that are not as strong as leather goods,” said Morgan Stanley analyst Claire Kent in an investment note. “Second, because the Hermès brand could be made more youthful through such talents.”
Hermès shares declined 2 percent to $196.12, or 166.20 euros, in trading on the Paris Bourse, as the CAC 40 index of French industrial companies fell 2.7 percent.