LVMH, the luxury goods group, revealed sales broke through the €20bn (£17bn) barrier for the first time last year, as its chairman defiantly said it had no intention to sell its controversial stake in rival Hermès.
The owner of Louis Vuitton handbags also said operating profits on recurring operations soared by 29 per cent to €4.3bn, boosted by soaring demand for its leather goods, champagne and watches. In citing an "excellent momentum" in Europe, Asia and the US, LVMH joined the likes of Burberry, Richemont and Hermès in toasting a strong performance in 2010.
Total revenues jumped by 19 per cent to €20.3bn at LVMH. Bernard Arnault, its chairman, said: "2010 was a great vintage for LVMH." The group touted a 29 per cent jump in operating profit at Louis Vuitton, its fashion and leather goods division, on revenues higher by 20 per cent to €7.58bn over the year.
Revenue was also up strongly by 19 per cent at its wines and spirit arm, which sells Dom Perignon and Krug champagne. And sales were higher by 29 per cent at the group's watches and jewellery division, lifted by new collections of its Tag Heuer watches.
LVMH said net profit grew by 73 per cent to €3.03bn, but excluding transactions related to the group's shareholding in Hermès, profits leapt by 30 per cent to €2.29bn.
Mr Arnault ruled out LVMH selling its stake in Hermès, which it has built up to 20.2 per cent. "We don't intend to leave this company," he said. But he added its investment was in a "positive and peaceful manner" and suggested it could work together with its 174-year-old rival. The founding family of Hermès has set up a holding company to protect itself against additional share purchases by LVMH.