* 2012 sales rise 16.4 pct at constant forex
* 2012 operating margin seen above 2011 level
* Proposes interim dividend of 1.5 eur/shr
(Adds detail, background)
PARIS, Feb 12 French luxury group Hermes
has posted a 16.4 percent rise in 2012 sales at
constant exchange rates, beating its own recent forecast and
predicted a slight rise in its operating margin for the year.
Known for its silk scarves and Birkin and Kelly handbags,
the company had only raised its sales forecast for the year in
November, saying then that growth could be more than 13 percent.
"Sales exceeded the target for the year, driven by
persistently robust momentum in the fourth quarter," Hermes said
in a statement on Tuesday.
Revenue grew 18.5 percent in the last three months of the
year, marking an acceleration from 15.7 percent growth in the
third quarter and 13.4 percent in the second.
Quarterly growth was strongest in Asia, excluding Japan, at
30 percent, Hermes said. The group added two branches in Taiwan
and China, while six other stores were renovated or expanded
last year. Growth in Europe was 12 percent.
Last month LVMH's fashion and leather goods
division reported sales growth of 5 percent like-for-like in the
fourth quarter, the bulk of which came from Louis Vuitton, the
world's biggest luxury brand.
PPR, which owns Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci, the
world's second biggest luxury brand in terms of sales behind
Louis Vuitton, publishes its annual results on Friday.
Hermes said revenue totalled 3.48 billion euros ($4.66
billion) last year, a rise of 22.6 percent at current exchange
rates. Fourth-quarter sales came in at 1.04 billion.
The company, which is due to post full-year results on March
21, said its 2012 operating margin was expected to be "slightly
above the all-time high achieved in 2011". The margin reached
31.2 percent of sales in 2011.
The 176-year-old French company's products include its Kelly
and Birkin leather handbags which cost around 12,000 euros and
can take months to obtain in certain colours or types of
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Greg Mahlich)