Kering Shares Rise as Gucci Makeover Shines

Kering (PPRUF)  shares rose on Friday after the French luxury-goods firm posted better-than-expected first-half earnings and demonstrated that its shine-up of the Gucci brand is starting to pay off.

The company, whose 16-brand luxury wardrobe also features Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, said that first-half operating profit, excluding one-time items, rose 4.9% to €811.1 million ($900.73 million). The figure exceeded €796 million projected in a Bloomberg New analyst poll.

At Gucci, like-for-like sales were also better than expected, growing 7.4% compared and a surprise 3.9% jump in first-half revenues to €1.947 billion on the heels of last year's revamp of the 90-year-old brand with a new management team and Alessandro Michele as creative director.

Investors welcomed the news, sending Kering shares up 6.81% in Paris to €170.90, for a market value of around €21.4 billion. The stock is little changed compared to a year ago.

Gucci is Kering's biggest label but has had a rough time in recent years, due to a combination of growing competition, a slowdown in China and currency headwinds.

Its owner now hopes to put that chapter behind it, saying that the brand re-positioning has proved "highly successful" with European clientele and has fueled "renewed appeal" among tourists to Europe.

Even in emerging markets, Gucci sales returned to growth at constant exchange rates in the first half, rising 2.1% on the back of a solid performance in mainland China, particularly in major cities.

Gucci's recurring income rose 7.0% to €536.9 million, while the recurring operating margin widened by 80 basis points to 27.6%.

"Gucci's creative momentum and ambitious strategy, launched last year, are delivering tangible results," said François-Henri Pinault, Kering's chairman and CEO.

But the company also sounded a cautious note, pledging to keep "rigorously" managing and allocating its resources in an uncertain operating environment, which includes exposure to events that could affect consumer trends and tourist numbers.

Among other luxury labels, Yves Saint Laurent saw like-for-like sales increase by 22.1%, while Bottega Veneta like-for-like sales slumped 9.8%.

Among sports and lifestyle brands, Puma was the star with a 10.6% rise in like-for-like sales and a 29% increase in recurring operating income to €52.5 million in the first half.

Wholesale sales, which contributed nearly four-fifths of Puma's total revenue, rose by 10.2%, as the brand's footwear sales grew for the eighth straight quarter.

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