* 2012 sales 8.14 bln Swiss francs, vs forecast 8.05 bln
* Sees double-digit sales growth in 2013
* 2012 profit to be hit by Olympics marketing cost, forex
* Shares down 2 percent after big climb in recent months
(Adds CEO interview, analyst comment, detail, updates shares)
By Silke Koltrowitz
ZURICH, Jan 10 Swatch Group aims to
keep growing sales faster than the industry average in 2013 and
possibly score another double-digit increase, the head of the
world's biggest watchmaker told Reuters.
Swatch said on Thursday that 2012 sales growth beat
forecasts, helped by affordable - though less profitable -
brands that are doing well in contrast to luxury models, which
are suffering from cooling demand in important Chinese markets.
"I'm expecting double-digit growth for the Chinese New Year
in local currency, and why not perhaps also for the year as a
whole," Chief Executive Nick Hayek said in a phone interview.
Gross sales at the maker of colourful Swatch plastic watches
as well as high-end Breguet and Omega timepieces rose 14 percent
to 8.14 billion Swiss francs ($8.8 billion) last year, beating a
forecast for 8.05 billion in a Reuters poll.
Sales at its watches and jewellery segment, which account
for 90 percent of the total, rose almost 16 percent, far
outpacing an industry average that is thought to have slowed to
5 percent in 2012 from 13 percent in 2011.
Hayek said he expected Swiss watch exports as a whole to
grow 5-7 percent in 2013, down from the 12.6 percent growth
recorded for the 11 months up to November 2012.
The company noted that high marketing expenses for the
London Olympic Games - its biggest brand Omega was a sponsor -
and currency developments would affect 2012 profits, due to be
reported by Feb. 21. Hayek said net profit would come in above
the 1.28 billion francs recorded in 2011.
Swatch shares, which rose 31 percent last year and have
performed strongly in recent months in particular on
expectations of strong sales, were down 2.5 percent by 1208 GMT,
underperforming a 0.7 percent fall on the European personal and
household goods index.
"The company appears to be tempering expectations regarding
this year's (2012) profitability, citing the franc and the
Olympics. I suspect the year started OK but no great shakes
given its comment about just 'positive growth' so far," Kepler
Capital Markets analyst Jon Cox said.
Citi analyst Thomas Chauvet said he expected continued
margin pressures for the company as the group invests in its
boutiques and production. The fact that high-end and high-margin
brands are underperforming the middle segment also weighs on
profitability, he noted.
Swatch was the first luxury goods group to report 2012
sales. Peer Richemont will post a trading update on
Jan. 21. Luxury groups including Burberry and PPR's
Gucci have recently warned of tough trading in China.
"China is and remains a growth driver. It is not as strong
as it was in the prestige high end but our ... Longines, Rado,
Tissot and Swatch (brands) continue to grow at a rhythm
of around 20 percent. It's from Omega upwards that it gets a
little bit less dynamic," Hayek said.
Hayek said an increasing trend for Chinese customers to buy
very high-end watches while travelling abroad rather than at
home was hitting that price segment in China.
($1 = 0.9271 Swiss franc)
(Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Dan Lalor
and Sophie Walker)