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Richemont takes Hong Kong hit but rest of world sees growth

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today Nov 8, 2019
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The big story for many luxury companies in recent periods has been the slowdown in Hong Kong and on Friday luxury giant Richemont gave further evidence of how Hong Kong’s issues are making themselves felt in luxury boardrooms worldwide as sales there fell in double-digits.


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Its results for the six months to September showed that strong demand in the rest of the world made up for any hit it has taken in Hong Kong, but its profits came in below analysts' expectations.

The protests in the region hurt its business, but its strong mix of luxury brands, it’s mainly-ultra-high-end positioning, and its deep dive into online retail largely protected it elsewhere. 

Sales rose 9% at actual exchange rates to €7.397bn and 6% at constant exchange rates. It saw growth in all regions, distribution channels and business areas, led by the Jewellery Maisons and its online ops that include Net-A-Porter, Mr Porter, The Outnet, Yoox and Watchfinder.

It also reported double-digit sales rises in China, Korea, Japan, the US and the UK, which outperformed its other locations, although there’s no denying that the “difficult environment” in Hong Kong was a problem.

THE NUMBERS

Operating profit was up by a below-expectations 3% to €1.165bn with a 15.7% operating margin that was down from 16.6% a year earlier. And net profit fell 61% to €869m. That latter figure may look like devastating news, but the company said it was “broadly stable when excluding the prior year period’s post-tax non-cash gain of €1.378bn on the revaluation of the [YNAP] shares held prior to [the] buyout”. And profits are also being impacted by its investment programme in its giant business.

Chairman Johann Rupert talked up the Feng Mao JV in China between Alibaba and YNAP. The soft launch of the Net-A-Porter flagship store on Tmall Luxury Pavilion on September 30 marked Feng Mao’s debut and “represented an important first step in the development of our long-term partnership with Alibaba,” the chairman said. And he added that the recent acquisition of Buccellati “will help Richemont benefit from the long-term potential of the jewellery market” and the deal with Alber Elbaz "will bring a valuable dynamic to our group”.

UPS AND DOWN

Digging deeper into the H1 performance, the company said that “in a volatile environment”, its business showed “resilience”. But its Fashion & Accessories Maisons “posted limited sales growth and profits.” However, golf-course-to-city apparel brand Peter Millar saw a “strong performance” and sales of leathergoods at Montblanc and Chloé grew, while the Americas and Japan outperformed. Total division sales rose only 1% to €941m, although the operating result swung from a loss a year ago to a small €3m profit.

YNAP/Watchfinder posted 32% sales growth to €1.179bn but “operating losses increased [to €194m] as we invested to strengthen their market position and technology leadership”. Watchfinder “made good progress with its internationalisation” and is now in France, Hong Kong, China and Germany, as well as its core UK market. 

And the Jewellery Maisons saw sales rising 8% to €3.736bn and “delivered a high level of profitability.” But Hong Kong hurt the Specialist Watchmakers and they saw “muted” sales growth (up 1% to €1.567bn).

Regionally, European sales rose 7% to €2.221bn, on the back of strength online and in jewellery. The UK recorded double-digit sales growth, which was good news after a decrease in the previous year, while sales in France and Switzerland fell on the back of lower tourist spending, notably from Chinese clients.

Sales in Asia-Pacific rose 7% to €2.729bn, despite the Hong Kong issues, and Japan saw 13% sales growth to €647m, underpinned both by good domestic spending and by tourists.

The Americas was always going to be difficult this period as the previous year had seen 42% growth. This time round it saw an 11% sales rise to €1.347bn (but only 6% currency-neutral), driven by the US.

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