Apr 20, 2009
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Benetton sees Q1 in line or slightly below yr-earlier

Apr 20, 2009

PONZANO VENETO, Italy, April 20 (Reuters) - Italy's Benetton (BNG.MI) expects first-quarter results to be in line or slightly below those of a year earlier, Executive Vice Chairman Alessandro Benetton said on Monday 20 April.

United Colors of Benetton Spring 2009

As a whole, 2009 should be a good year, taking into account consumer and market conditions, he said.

"We have had some good sensations (for the first quarter), if not in line just slightly below the year before. We have seen a slowdown but not so strong to make us pessimistic," he told reporters, referring to the sales trend, after the group's annual shareholder meeting.

"(2009) will be a good year in relative terms in respect to how consumption and markets are going," he said.

"It is our style to have a contagious optimism."

His comments come after Europe's biggest clothing retailer Inditex (ITX.MC) -- owner of Zara -- last month gave an upbeat outlook and said it aimed to lift sales in 2009 at existing stores.

Benetton executives said orders for the new spring-summer collection were in line with expectations and with last year.

"We have seen a general fall in consumption but there are also positive signals like the quality of our collections and the optimal market response," Chief Executive Gerolamo Caccia Dominioni said.

The company reported 2008 net profit of 155 million euros, up 7 percent, lifted by rising sales in emerging markets.

When asked if the group was looking to increase its share in its markets, Chairman Luciano Benetton said: "Surely yes." He did not give any numerical details.

On the Benetton family's other interests, which include stakes in motorway company Atlantia SpA (ATL.MI) and retail company Autogrill SpA (AGL.MI), Alessandro Benetton said he sees no interesting investment opportunities apart from Benetton SpA shares.

Benetton shares were up 0.43 percent to 5.89 euros at 11.51 GMT.

(Reporting by Cristina Carlevaro and Marie-Louise Gumuchian)

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