UPDATE 1-Luxottica bullish as sales defy European recession
(Adds CEO comment, analyst, details)
* Eyewear group confident profits will continue to grow in 2013
* Sales rise 7.2 percent globally, 14 percent in Europe
* Small acquisitions are still on the agenda - CEO
By Isla Binnie
MILAN, July 25 (Reuters) - Italy's Luxottica is confident profits will continue to increase in 2013 in line with sales which rose to over 2 billion euros ($2.65 billion) in the second quarter, boosted by growth in all markets, including recession-hit Europe.
The world's biggest premium eyewear maker by revenue said on Thursday sales grew 7.2 percent globally in the period and quarterly net profits rose 12.5 percent to 218 million euros. Revenue was in line with analysts forecasts according to Thomson Reuters data.
Chief Executive Andrea Guerra repeated his "rule of thumb" - whereby profits are expected to grow twice as fast as sales, which in turn should rise by a high single-digit percentage.
Sales were up 5 percent in North America, where Luxottica makes around 60 percent of its revenue, while European sales grew by 14 percent. Even Italy, stuck in its longest recession since World War Two, saw 9 percent growth.
"Europe has been more variable over the past few quarters, but now it's extremely positive," Guerra said.
Growth in July has been in line with the second quarter, Guerra added, voicing confidence for the coming months.
Analysts say Luxottica's integrated supply and distribution model, including control of retail chain Sunglass Hut, and lucrative brand licences such as Prada and Giorgio Armani, put it at a significant advantage to competitors.
"They've been winning the most important licences. therefore I think they can get whatever licences they want," said Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca. "Competitors have to settle for what they discard, which I think is a very good position."
Luxottica's most high-profile recent licence agreement, to produce eyewear for the Armani brand, contributed around 3.5 percent of second-quarter wholesale revenue, Guerra said.
The company is still considering acquiring small and medium-sized businesses, he said, after closing deals to buy French eyewear maker Alain Mikli and a minority stake in Italian optical retailer Salmoiraghi & Vigano.
"We are looking at a few things, above all in rapidly developing countries," Guerra said. "We believe in the strategy of taking home two or three purchases a year."
($1 = 0.7555 euros) (Additional reporting by Sabina Suzzi; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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