* Q2 sales growth 5.2 pct vs forecast 5.5 pct
* L'Oreal says trading at hair salon product unit improving
* U.S. growth slows
(Adds detail, analyst comment)
By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS, July 16 L'Oreal's sales grew
slightly less than expected in the second quarter but the
world's biggest cosmetics group pointed to improved trading at
its underperforming hair salon products business.
Quarterly sales rose 5.2 percent on a like-for-like basis
from the same period a year earlier, the company said on
Analysts had expected the maker of Garnier shampoo and Yves
Saint Laurent perfume to report growth of around 5.5 percent,
roughly in line with the previous three months.
"L'Oreal came in slightly below expectations," Bernstein
analyst Andrew Wood said in a note. "We expect slight
disappointment from the market, especially given the strong
year-to-date momentum in the stock."
L'Oreal shares, which closed 1.5 percent lower on Tuesday,
have gained nearly 25 percent since the start of the year.
The group said its professional hair salon products unit had
suffered, particularly in southern Europe, but still achieved
sales growth of 2.7 percent on a comparable basis in the quarter
to June 30, compared to no growth in the first quarter.
"It seems professional products have turned the corner,"
L'Oreal Chief Executive Jean-Paul Agon told analysts on a
L'Oreal's luxury products, which include Armani perfume and
Lancome creams, saw growth slow to 5.5 percent on a
like-for-like basis from 7.2 percent in the first quarter.
From a regional perspective, comparable sales growth
remained stable in Western Europe at 1.7 percent but decelerated
in North America to 4.5 percent from 6.3 percent.
"Regarding the U.S. market, we have seen a clear
deceleration compared to last year," Agon said.
In its newer markets, the company saw higher growth rates in
the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America but more subdued
demand in Eastern Europe.
Agon said bad weather during the three months through June
had also hit sales, cutting orders of slimming products by a
quarter and sun care products by about 7-10 percent.
He said he expected trends in the global cosmetics market to
remain unchanged during the rest of the year. The group
reiterated its target to expand profits and sales in 2013.
(Editing by James Regan and Tom Pfeiffer)