Hermes sales growth slows in Q4, but margins to hit record in 2017

PARIS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - French luxury goods maker Hermes , best-known for its coveted handmade bags and squared silk scarves, on Thursday said sales at constant currencies rose 5 percent in the fourth quarter, a slight slowdown from the previous three months.

That was a touch below market expectations, with analysts expecting growth to have eased to closer to 6 percent from 11 percent a quarter earlier, against tougher comparisons.

Chief Executive Axel Dumas said year-ago comparisons were tougher for its silk division, while stock levels of its handbags had run low after high demand throughout 2017.

Nevertheless, growth remained very healthy in general, he added on a call with journalists.

Revenues on a reported basis were down 0.4 percent from a year earlier to 1.5 billion euros ($1.84 billion) between October and December. Sales reached 5.5 billion euros for 2017 as a whole, up 9 percent at constant currencies.

Hermes, which will report full results for last year on March 21, said operating profitability should be close to the record level recorded over the first half of 2017.

$1 = 0.8140 euros Reporting by Sarah White Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta