(Adds CEO interview quotes)
* Q1 revs 1.86 bln euros vs average forecast 1.87 bln
* CEO says April sales positive
MILAN, April 29 (Reuters) - Italy’s Luxottica expects sales of its fashion sunglasses to grow faster in the second quarter after demand from emerging markets helped revenues in the first three months meet forecasts despite a recession in southern Europe.
Luxottica, the world’s biggest premium eyewear maker by revenue, said on Monday it expected sales to grow by a double-digit percentage points in 2013 as it moves to launch its Armani range globally and the summer season kicks in.
“April was a another positive month,” Chief Executive Andrea Guerra told Reuters after the group reported first-quarter results in line with analysts forecasts.
“We expect the second quarter to show an acceleration compared with the first quarter. I think it could be a better quarter,” he said.
The owner of Ray-ban and Oakley brands reported sales of 1.86 billion euros ($2.42 billion) in the first quarter, meeting an average revenue forecast of 1.87 billion euros by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S/.
Luxottica, which makes almost 60 percent of its sales in the United States, said business in southern Europe suffered from a prolonged recession but the worst of the year was behind them.
“I think this first quarter in southern Europe was the most difficult for us this year, but it looks like we climbed the most difficult mountain,” Guerra said in a phone interview.
Luxottica said it would continue to look at possible acquisitions in the retail markets in Latin America and southeast Asia, where demand for luxury goods is growing.
Guerra said he expected revenues at the group’s new Atelier division, which includes Alain Mikli and Oliver Peoples fashion brands, to double over the next three years from currently around 100 million euros.
Smaller rival Safilo reported forecast-beating results in the first quarter, helped by demand for fashion sunglasses it makes for top brands such as Gucci and Dior.
However, sales in southern Europe remained volatile, Luxottica said, with Portugal, Spain and Greece hit hardest.
Luxury groups such as PPR, LVMH and Hermes have indicated their sales have been hit by sluggish trading in Europe and slower growth in China.
Luxottica reported net profits of 159 million euros in the first quarter, slightly above an average analyst forecast of 156 million euros. ($1 = 0.7676 euros) (Reporting by Antonella Ciancio and Sabina Suzzi; Editing by David Cowell)