Jan 19, 2009
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Richemont sees dramatic drop in demand for luxury goods

Jan 19, 2009

ZURICH, Jan 19, 2009 (AFP) - Luxury goods giant Richemont said Monday that demand fell "dramatically" during the final quarter of 2008, especially in the United States, in the toughest market conditions seen in the group's 20 year history.

Richemont - "Etoile de Montblanc" by Montblanc

The Swiss-based group reported turnover of 1.55 billion euros for the third quarter of its 2008 to 2009 financial year, a decline of 12 percent compared to the same period the previous year at constant exchange rates.

"Demand for luxury goods, as in other sectors of the economy, has fallen dramatically and Richemont is currently facing the toughest market conditions

since its formation 20 years ago," the company said in an interim financial statement.

At actual exchange rates, the decline in turnover for the three months to December 2008 was 7.0 percent, it added.

All regions reported lower underlying sales, although in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan positive exchange rate changes yielded modest growth on accounts.

Richemont said the overall decline worsened over the period, especially in the United States where sales fell by 24 percent compared to the same quarter the previous year.

The luxury goods group saw "no cause for optimism" in the current economic climate, and highlighted the uncertainties of the situation.

"We must assume that there will be no significant recovery in the foreseeable future and plan accordingly to cope with this situation," it added.

Richemont said its conservative management through the earlier financial crisis had helped maintain a strong balance sheet.

Last September, the group reported that the top end of the market was proving resilient to the financial crisis as sales rose by 11 percent over a five month period. But it had warned that it was not immune from a slowdown.

Richemont owns a host of luxury jewellery, watch and fashion accessory brands, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, IWC, Baume & Mercier, Vacheron Constantin, Montblanc, Alfred Dunhill and Lancel.

The company also manages substantial financial interests, notably an investment in British American Tobacco (BAT).

Late last year, Richemont carried out longstanding plans to seperate the two parts of its business, creating Reinet Investments SCA to trade independently as the Group's dedicated investment vehicle.

On Monday, Richemont underlined the extent of its fears in recent years about global financial stability and "wrongly priced credit," blaming the world of finance for assuming "unknown and unquantifiable risks."

Striking an unusually critical note, the usually discreet luxury goods firm blamed "many activist shareholders and investment bankers" for generating excess leverage that "now has to be unwound with panic measures and unseemly haste."

Richemont's share price was down by 3.4 percent at 16.97 in early trading (0837 GMT) on the Swiss stock exchange.

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