TAG Heuer pushing brand in China: CEO

The Tag Heuer watch maker factory, part of LVMH, is pictured in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

MONTREAL (Reuters) - The head of luxury group LVMH’s Swiss watchmaking business said on Saturday the company is pushing its TAG Heuer brand in the Chinese market, as rivals scale back their investments due to weaker demand.

“We’re pushing a lot, we’re especially pushing now, much more than ever because all the brands are disinvesting,” TAG Heuer Chief Executive Jean-Claude Biver said in an interview. “This means our investment now becomes much stronger.”

TAG has only minimal exposure to China and Hong Kong and its growth this year is mainly from the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia, Biver said in Montreal, during a company event for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Biver said TAG’s sales grew 20 percent during the first five months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015, on greater demand from the four countries and for its “smartwatches” that connect to the Internet.

While Biver previously expected to sell 40,000 to 50,000 of the connected watches, he said he now hopes to deliver 60,000 and is facing demand for 80,000 watches.

Biver said he still expects double-digit sales for the TAG Heuer brand in 2016.

“We will try to keep the pace,” he said. “But the world is so difficult at the moment.”

He said Swiss watch industry sales declined 9 percent during the first five months of 2016 on an annual basis, because of weaker demand from China and other emerging markets. He said the Swiss watch industry as a whole has greater exposure to China than TAG does.

“For me the most important thing is that I beat the Swiss watch industry,” Biver said. “If I do better than the industry it means I gained market share. The more the market is difficult, the more important it is to gain market share.”

Reporting By Allison Lampert; Editing by Bill Rigby