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Hermes Gives Back Some Cash It Gets From $10,000 Handbags

Updated on
  • French luxury house sets special dividend, ups annual payout
  • Company benefits from e-commerce push after slow start online

Pedestrians are silhouetted as they stand outside a outside a Hermes International store at Siam Paragon Shopping Mall in Bangkok.

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Hermes International, flush with cash from surging sales of $10,000 handbags, is giving a chunk of it back to shareholders.

The French luxury-goods house said Wednesday it will pay a special dividend of 5 euros a share on top of its 4.10 euros annual payment after cash holdings approached 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion).

Axel Dumas

Photographer: Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images

“We have no debt, we have very faithful shareholders, and it’s a historic year,” Chief Executive Officer Axel Dumas said on a call with reporters. “It seems to make sense to have an exceptional dividend compared to our cash position and the good trend of the business.”

The maker of Birkin and Kelly bags is benefiting from a fresh push in e-commerce, and its operating margin reached a record, the company said in a statement Wednesday. The Paris-based company reported earnings that beat analysts’ estimates. The stock rose as much as 3.7 percent in early trading, the most since July 2016.

“This brand remains the closest in our universe to the perfect luxury paradox,” wrote Rogerio Fujimori, an analyst at RBC Europe who cited Hermes’s track record in balancing ‘timelessness, modernity, consistent growth and high profitability.”

Hermes was a pioneer in luxury e-commerce when it started to sell online in 2001, but the website since then had stuck to a more limited selection and was slow to adapt to the smartphone age. Under the new effort, the company will even send clients a $40,000 watch via FedEx.

The margin in the first half of last year benefited from currency hedging, Dumas said.

In the second half, “our collections sold very, very well,” he said. “We sold almost everything we had in stores. That has been very beneficial on the margin.”

Hermes said it aims for “ambitious” revenue growth this year despite economic, monetary and political uncertainties.

Paris-based Hermes had already reported that growth slowed during the holiday season as the luxury-goods maker ran low on leather items. Fourth-quarter sales rose 4.6 percent at constant exchange rates, less than half the rate of the previous three months.

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