Richemont slip stokes China fears

Fears of a slowdown in luxury goods sales in China re-emerged yesterday as results at the Cartier-to-Montblanc owner Richemont missed analysts' forecasts.

The Swiss-based Richemont, which also owns Net-A-Porter and fashion label Chloé, warned consumers were more "prudent" after "several years of exceptional expansion" as it reported group sales growth of 9 per cent for the five months to September – just missing forecasts of 10 per cent.

The general-luxury sector in China has been hit by a reduction in demand for high-end jewellery and watches after a clampdown on corporate bribes.

Richemont, whose chairman, Johann Rupert, started a one-year sabbatical after yesterday's annual meeting, reported good growth said Hong Kong and Macau had offset lower sales in mainland China.

A number of prestige brands, such as the handbag maker Hermès, have recently reported improving Chinese sales, which led many to believe talk of a slowdown was overblown.

But jewellery and watches have been hit harder by the bribery crackdown than brands focused on "soft" luxury such as clothing and handbags. Richemont said jewellery sales in America were strong and European and Middle Eastern sales across all its brands were boosted by visitors in major tourist destinations.

Its fashion website Net-A-Porter posted double-digit growth. The brand is to launch a magazine called Porter as part of its expansion for the website, which Richemont bought in 2010.

The company admitted sales growth for the group was hit by the weakening of the dollar and yen against the euro. Taking into account currency, group sales were up 4 per cent.

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