Buoyant Net-a-Porter lifts Richemont's luxe profits

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The Independent Online

Shoppers snapping up luxury looks while sitting on the sofa each evening have helped online fashion site Net-a-Porter match the sales growth of its stablemates like Cartier and Montblanc at designer brands giant Richemont.

Despite recession in many of its markets, Richemont saw the global appetite for upmarket clothes, jewellery and watches show no signs of waning with a forecast-beating 43 per cent rise in net profits.

Richemont, the world's second-largest luxury goods group behind Paris-based LVMH, is "cautiously optimistic" despite the unstable economic environment.

Growth is so buoyant its South African owners, the Rupert family, announced a share buyback.

Chairman and chief executive Johann Rupert will buy back up to 10 million of its A shares through the market over the next two years.

Profit for the year to the end of March hit €1.54bn (£1.23bn).

But sales growth had slowed slightly with an April sales rise of 29 per cent, down on the 32 per cent rate of a year earlier. China and Asia continue to be a big growth area for luxury goods groups, and Richemont saw sales in Asia-Pacific shoot up 46 per cent. The area now makes up 42 per cent of group sales. The group said it would continue to open new stores for its brands in Europe and Asia.

Richemont's network of 948 boutiques and shops and its Net-a-Porter online sites now account for more than half of group sales, outpacing the rate of growth for the wholesale arm of the business.

The shares, up 5.25 per cent yesterday, have gained 12 per cent in value since the start of the year. Despite the strong growth, Mr Rupert admitted he was "mindful of the unstable economic environment, particularly in the eurozone."