Richemont Sales Rise 8%, Miss Forecast

Richemont, the world's second-largest luxury goods group, narrowly missed forecasts on
Wednesday with an 8 percent rise in third-quarter sales, and said demand "slowed somewhat" in Japan and the United States in December.

Analysts had expected the maker of Cartier, Piaget and Montblanc accessories to post a 9 percent increase in sales in the three months to Dec. 31, according to a Reuters poll.

Smoothing out recent currency fluctuations, which typically hit Richemont hard because it reports in euros, the company said underlying sales growth had been good in the first two months of the quarter but that slowing demand in the U.S. and Japan had an impact in December.

Total sales at constant exchange rates rose 14 percent, in line with the average forecast in a Reuters poll of 13 analysts of 14.3 percent.

However, sales growth in China and Hong Kong was "outstanding" and sales in the Asia-Pacific region represented 23 percent of group turnover during the quarter.

Richemont has benefited in recent years from growing demand in Asia and the Middle East, where wealthy entrepreneurs and oil magnates have splashed out on luxury goods.

Yet any slowdown in the global economy would likely undercut growth in the luxury goods sector.

Richemont will clarify its intentions for restructuring its British American Tobacco stake in the next few months, the group said earlier this month.

Richemont is looking to split its luxury goods operations from other business interests, including its 19.3 percent holding in BAT.