Richemont Third-Quarter Sales Rise on Increased Asian Demand

Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, the world’s second-largest luxury-goods maker, reported 24 percent growth in third-quarter revenue, boosted by sales of Vacheron Constantin timepieces and Cartier jewelry in Asia.

Revenue rose to 2.62 billion euros ($3.31 billion) in the three months through December from 2.12 billion euros a year earlier, the Geneva-based company said today in a statement. That beat the 2.54 billion-euro average estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Sales gained 21 percent in December, excluding currency shifts.

Richemont gets about 40 percent of revenue from the Asia-Pacific region, where sales climbed 36 percent in the quarter. The market’s growth, particularly in China, is fueling demand for luxury watches. Cartier is the second-most favored brand in China for gift-giving, according to Hurun Report Inc., a research group. Sales also grew in Europe and the Americas.

“Watch and jewelry demand remains robust,” said Jon Cox, head of Swiss research at Kepler Capital Markets in Zurich. “While the market is well aware of the Asia-Pacific, the ability of tourists to buoy Europe, as well as better-than-expected growth in the Americas, are the positive surprises.”

Richemont rose 2.8 percent to 52.1 Swiss francs in Zurich.

“The group’s overall performance remains solid,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Johann Rupert said in the statement. Operating profit was “significantly higher” in 2011 than the prior year, he said.

Swatch’s Challenge

Revenue rose 27 percent to 6.83 billion euros from April to December. Richemont doesn’t report profit for the period.

Third-quarter revenue in the Americas gained 23 percent to 382 million euros, while sales in Europe increased 16 percent to 914 million euros. The company’s jewelry brands posted a 25 percent increase in revenue, and its watchmaking operations reported 28 percent sales growth. Excluding currency shifts, group revenue in the period also increased 24 percent.

Swatch Group AG, the biggest maker of Swiss watches, said on Jan. 10 that 2012 will be a “major” challenge after gross revenue last year rose to a record. The same day, New York-based Tiffany & Co. declined the most in more than three years after cutting its annual earnings forecast.

Richemont may be “winning share if you look at Tiffany’s recent trading statement,” according to Kepler’s Cox.

Montblanc and Dunhill

Richemont’s watchmaking third-quarter revenue of 697 million euros exceeded analyst estimates. Brands including Jaeger-LeCoultre and Lange & Soehne generated about a quarter of Richemont’s sales in the three months through December.

Sales at the jewelry brands amounted to 1.36 billion euros, beating the 1.33 billion-euro average estimate. The division accounts for about half of the company’s sales. Richemont also gets revenue from businesses including online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter and Alfred Dunhill, the London-based maker of leather goods, fashion and lighters.

Rupert, the company’s controlling shareholder, became CEO in 2010 after Norbert Platt, who had held the job since 2004, stepped down. Richemont named Richard Lepeu as deputy CEO and Gary Saage as chief financial officer in March.

Richemont sells products under 19 brands including Montblanc, which has expanded into timepieces and accessories from its traditional pen business.

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