* Richemont sees FY net profit up 30 pct on year
* Net profit would beat views averaging 1.928 bln euros
* Shares up over 5 percent
* Full-year results expected May 16
(Adds more analyst comment, background, shares)
By Katharina Bart
ZURICH, April 23 Cartier watches maker Richemont
said full-year profit would beat expectations, easing
fears about a sharp slowdown in demand for luxury goods in Asia,
the engine of the industry's recent growth.
The Swiss group, which also makes Montblanc pens and Van
Cleef & Arpels jewellery, said on Tuesday its net profit rose
around 30 percent in the year ended March 31, helped by
favourable foreign exchange moves.
That would equate to around 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion),
ahead of analysts' average forecast of 1.93 billion, according
to Thomson Reuters data.
Richemont also said sales rose 9 percent at constant
exchange rates, which some analysts said suggested a pick-up in
growth in the fourth quarter, after a weak end to 2012.
"The clear positive is organic growth, which appeared to
accelerate in the fourth quarter to over 7 percent after only 5
percent in the third quarter, so the worst of growth
deceleration may be over," Kepler Capital Markets analyst Jon
Richemont shares, down 9.5 percent over the past three
months, were up 5.5 percent to 71.9 Swiss francs by 0905 GMT.
Luxury stocks are highly sensitive to signs of changes in
demand from Asia, which has been the driving force of their
growth in recent years amid recession in Europe.
While most firms point to a moderation in demand, it is
unclear how quickly it is cooling and there are big changes from
one quarter to the next and from one company to another.
French luxury brand Hermes blamed weakness in China for a 5
percent decline in watch sales in the first quarter to March but
said it expected demand for timepieces to improve later in the
However, Burberry reported better-than-expected quarterly
results, helped by demand from Asia for its most expensive
handbags and coats.
The Asia-Pacific region excluding Japan accounts for more
than 42 percent of Richemont's annual sales. Investors have been
concerned that the regime change in China which triggered a
crackdown on customary gifts for favours - which often involved
watches - would hit its business.
Data on Tuesday showed Swiss watch exports fell 5.4 percent
in March, less than the 7.1 percent fall in February, when
shipments to important markets Hong Kong and China saw
Richemont did not give details on its fourth-quarter
figures. It said it was releasing full-year, headline numbers to
comply with market rules on informing investors about big
changes in results compared with the previous year.
It will publish full earnings on May 16.
The group said reported sales would rise around 14 percent
and operating profit around 18 percent. That would equate to
sales of just over 10 billion euros, compared with analysts'
average forecast of 10.15 billion, and operating profit of about
2.41 billion, versus an average forecast of 2.4 billion.
"Net profit beats views, and it is comforting that there is
not going to be a disappointment at EBIT (operating profit)
level either," Zuercher Kantonalbank analyst Patrik Schwendimann
said. Schwendimann, who downgraded the stock to market weight in
January, upgraded the shares to overweight on the news.
($1 = 0.7674 euros)
(Additional reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Mark