LONDON — Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA, the Switzerland-based luxury goods group, on Thursday named Norbert Platt as group chief executive, and reported a sales spike of 15 percent in the first five months to Aug. 31.

Platt, who is currently chief executive of Montblanc, Richemont’s main writing instruments business, replaces Alain Dominique Perrin, who retired at the end of last year. Perrin continues to work on strategy and marketing at Richemont, and sits on the board of the parent company.

Platt will be based at Richemont’s headquarters in Geneva, and his replacement at Montblanc will be announced in due course, a company spokeswoman said. She said Platt will take on his new role immediately.

Platt has been with Montblanc for nearly two decades. “He is one of our most experienced and successful managers, having built Montblanc to its paramount position over the past 17 years,” Richemont chairman Johann Rupert said in a statement.

Until now, Rupert was acting chief executive of the firm. He said the positive turnaround in Richemont’s performance this year spurred him to name a new chief. “Our balance sheet is in excellent shape, our cash flows are strong and our maisons are performing better and better,” he said.

Rupert was reluctant, however, to make any concrete statements regarding the outlook for the rest of the year.

“The market is undeniably stronger than at this time last year. The sustainability of the economic recovery in the U.S. is still unclear and, although we are seeing growth, Europe is still a very sluggish market. Fortunately, we continue to see strong growth in the Asia-Pacific region and a gradual improvement in Japan.

He added the uplift in sales in the first five months will result in “significantly improved” profitability for the group in the first half of the year. Richemont will release interim results for the six months to Sept. 30 on Nov. 18.

Thursday’s trading statement, which only reported percentage changes, said sales rose 17 percent at constant exchange rates. It noted that the strength of the euro, particularly against the dollar, is continuing to take a bite out of sales.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

During the five months, sales in the Asia-Pacific region were the most vigorous, up 34 percent, followed by the U.S., where sales jumped 13 percent. In Europe, sales rose 12 percent, while in Japan they increased 4 percent.

“We are seeing an improving situation for Cartier and the watch businesses in Japan, and one should not lose sight of the fact that Japanese domestic consumption is not yet benefiting fully from the improving economic situation in the country,” Rupert said.

Richemont’s jewelry companies reported a 12 percent rise in sales, while the specialist watchmakers saw a sales spike of 19 percent. “Cartier obviously continues to benefit from the introduction of its new jewelry and watch offerings, with the successful launch of the new Santos models and increased demand for the existing Santos collection,” Rupert said.

Sales at the writing instrument manufacturers rose 18 percent, while those at leather and accessories houses rose 6 percent. Rupert said Dunhill has shown an improvement in sales, in line with expectations, while Lancel has suffered from the impact of the closure of its Paris flagship for refurbishment.