Richemont Warns of 45% First-Half Operating Profit Slump

More grim news for the Swiss luxury watch industry came Wednesday as Cartier maker Richemont (CFRUY) posted a slump in five-month sales and issued a profit warning for the first half.

The company, which also makes Baume & Mercier, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin watches, said that sales in the first five months of the current fiscal year fell by 13% at constant exchange rates and 14% at actual rates.

Richemont said it expects operating profit for the six months through Sept. 30 to come in around 45% below last year, reflecting the effect of around €65 million ($73 million) in restructuring charges, and the effect of buying back product inventories to help multi-brand retail partners in Hong Kong and Macau.

It's projecting six-month bottom-line profit to be impacted "in a broadly similar level" to the decline in operating profit, saying that the current negative environment as a whole is unlikely to reverse in the short term.

The sales slump was most pronounced in Europe, where sales fell 18% at constant exchange rates and 20% at actual rates, and to a much greater extent in wholesale than through retail distribution channels.

Asia Pacific didn't fare as badly, with sales down by 9% at constant foreign exchange rates and by 12% at actual rates.

"As expected, sales for the five-month period ended 31 August 2016 were below the prior year's level, reflecting the challenging comparative figures in 2015, the repurchase of slow moving watch inventory and the difficult global environment," Richmond said ahead of its annual shareholders'l meeting in Geneva.

"Overall currency movements also adversely impacted the group's sales."

Richemont shares fell  were recently down 3% at Sfr57.95.  Before today Richemont shares were down 14.5% compared with a year ago, closing at Sfr59.80 in Zurich on Tuesday for a market value of Sfr 34.4 billion ($35.1 billion).

Domestic rival Swatch (SWGAY) whose high-end brands include Harry Winston, Omega and Jaquet Droz, has performed worse, with a one-year return on its shares of minus 23.1%.

Analysts at Barclays last week downgraded both stocks, citing a combination of weak trading, industry overcapacity and inventory building.

Richemont on Wednesday said:  "We remain convinced of the long-term prospects for luxury goods globally, and in particular for watches and jewelry."

It added that the company "is well-positioned, with a strong balance sheet and portfolio of long-established Maisons," its luxury jewelry, watches and premium accessories lines.

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