May 15, 2009
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Swatch Group still sees demand picking up in H2

May 15, 2009

BIEL, Switzerland, May 15 - Swatch Group (UHR.VX), the world's largest watchmaker, sees demand for its timepieces picking up in the second half and expects full-year profits and sales to be around the same level as in 2008.

Swatch Group's new Omega boutique in New York

Swatch Group, best known for its colourful watches, has seen sales improve in April and May, Chairman Nicolas Hayek said in a speech at the company's annual general meeting in the Swiss city of Biel.

Hayek said the group was also holding up better than the rest of the industry, but that demand in the first three or four months of 2009 was below last year's levels.

"All our forecasts based on the information on international markets confirm a pick-up during the second half of the year 2009, with a pickup and slight growth of sales and profits in the second half of 2009 compared to 2008 for Swatch Group," Hayek said.

Swatch Group will post first-half figures on Aug. 20.

Swiss watch exports fell for the fifth month in a row in March, dropping 26.6 percent in nominal terms as demand shrank in the key Hong Kong and U.S. markets.

The demand for luxury timepieces has withered in recent months as consumers worried about possible job losses and their shrinking investment portfolios as a result of the worst economic downturn since World War Two.

The comments from Swatch Group are more upbeat than those of rival Richemont (CFR.VX), which said on Thursday 14 May it was impossible to predict when a recovery would come and that markets were likely to remain challenging until September.

At 1022 GMT, shares in Swatch Group, which have gained nearly 15 percent so far this year, were trading near flat, while Richemont shares were 2.6 percent higher. The DJ Stoxx personal and household goods index .SXQP was up 0.3 percent.

Swatch Group, which includes higher-end brands such as Breguet and Blancpain and Omega, posted a full-year net profit of 838 million Swiss francs ($757 million) and gross sales of 6 billion francs in 2008. (Reporting by Katie Reid, editing by Will Waterman) ($1=1.107 Swiss Franc)

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