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LVMH spirits sales beat forecasts, fashion disappoints

French luxury goods group LVMH posted a 3 percent rise in like-for-like first-quarter sales on Monday, helped by the weak euro against the dollar and what it called an "excellent start to the year" at Louis Vuitton.

The world's biggest maker of luxury goods said its wines and spirits unit, which includes its flagship Hennessy cognac brand, was penalized by tough trading in China, however, where distributors continued to lower their stocks.

A shopper looks at the window display of a Louis Vuitton store, operated by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA.
Balint Parneczi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Wines and spirits sales fell 1 percent on a comparable basis in the first quarter, LVMH said in a statement. Still, this was better than the 3-4 percent decline expected by analysts.

Despite the situation in China, LVMH said Hennessy cognac had an overall increase in volume thanks to the "strength of the U.S. market."

The group's fashion and leather unit, the bulk of which is made up of Louis Vuitton sales, saw revenue rise only 1 percent like-for-like, significantly below the 9 percent rise in the year-ago period and 4 percent increase in the fourth quarter.

Many analysts expected a rise of at least 2 percent.

LVMH said, however, that last year's comparative figure was boosted by shoppers in Japan snapping up Louis Vuitton bags and other luxury goods ahead of a VAT hike on April 1.

"This is not a home run, but a very solid set of results," said Exane BNP Paribas luxury goods analyst Luca Solca.

Analysts expect management to give a more detailed trading update, particularly regarding its performance in Asia, during a conference call scheduled for 1300 GMT on Tuesday.

LVMH's overall first-quarter sales rose 16 percent on a reported basis to 8.323 billion euros ($8.80 billion).

"The group recorded excellent momentum in Europe and the United States," LVMH added.