- Japan had 48% sales growth, Europe gained 26% in five months
- Asia-Pacific remains "extremely challenging," Richemont says
Richemont, the world’s biggest jewelry maker, said sales growth accelerated as weaker currencies attracted big-spending tourists to Japan and Europe, spurring the stock’s steepest intraday gain in more than two years.
Sales increased 4 percent excluding currency shifts in the five months through August, the Geneva-based company said in a statement Wednesday. Analysts expected a 1 percent gain, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. The shares climbed as much as 7.5 percent.
Sales rose 48 percent in Japan and 26 percent in Europe, offsetting an 18 percent decline in Asia-Pacific. The results mirror comments by peers in the luxury business, such as Hermes International SCA, which reported higher first-half sales, fueled by an acceleration in Japan. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE in July posted strong revenue growth in Europe and the U.S., which helped offset a decline in China, Macau and Hong Kong.
"Japan and Europe more than compensate for the weak development in Hong Kong,” said Rene Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel AG in Zurich. "The strong performance of those markets mean the Swiss watch industry can weather the Asian weakness, at least this year."
Shares in the Swiss owner of the Cartier jewelry brand, whose full name is Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, rose 6.4 percent to 76.65 francs as of 11:40 a.m. in Zurich. The report bolstered shares in the luxury-goods industry, with Hermes up 4.8 percent and LVMH gaining 3.5 percent.
Richemont said sales in Hong Kong and Macau were "significantly lower," while mainland China returned to growth with retail sales growing at a "strong double-digit rate." The company reports five-month sales figures each year on the day of its annual meeting with shareholders.
"Part of the crisis in confidence in the watch industry in Asia-Pacific is fragile confidence by independent retailers amid the problems in Hong Kong and Macau," said Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich, adding that Richemont’s comments about China were reassuring.
Still, Richemont said its wholesale business continues to be weighed down by weakness in the Asia-Pacific region, which is still "extremely challenging.”
Luxury spending in Hong Kong has been suffered since late 2012 when the Chinese government has been discouraging exuberant spending among officials. Political protests in Hong Kong last year forced some stores to shut and weighed on tourism.
Among other luxury stocks, Swatch Group AG, the maker of Omega watches, rose 3 percent, and Kering SA, which owns Gucci, rose 4.4 percent.