May 15, 2014 / 7:02 PM / 5 years ago

Moncler says Asia, United States boost first quarter

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian quilted jacket maker Moncler (MONC.MI) said on Thursday like-for-like sales rose 10 percent in the first quarter, boosted by Asia and the United States and a good response to its spring-summer collection.

Moncler highlighted comparable sales in Japan, traditionally the largest Asian market for its 800-1,000 euro shiny down jackets, as particularly strong, and shrugged off concerns about cooling demand in China due to an economic slowdown in the home of the world’s keenest luxury shoppers.

“In China, even though the market in general is slowing down, we are ... keeping very good growth ... especially in Hong Kong,” retail director Andrea Tieghi said on a conference call.

Quarterly revenue rose 16 percent to 145.4 million euros ($199 million). Analysts had expected on average 142.4 million euros, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The company’s home market of Italy, where economic growth unexpectedly declined in the first quarter after emerging from recession late last year, saw sales slump 4 percent.

Italian sales have begun to recover, however, and were flat to the previous year at the end of April, Chief Corporate Officer Luciano Santel said.

Moncler said sales in Japan, where shoppers squeezed in purchases ahead of a value-added tax hike in March, had stayed strong in April.

“I would not say that we saw any slowdown in April (in Japan), business there is still very solid,” Santel said.

Summery versions of the famous padded jacket had been well-received, Chief Executive Officer Remo Ruffini said.

“We really found the new solution in style, we made a lot of print, totally different from the other seasons, and the reaction of the market was really very strong,” Ruffini said.

The company also started building a business unit for knitwear, Ruffini said. While the chief executive has said he has no plans to make Moncler into a “total look” brand, analysts say relying on one product risks consumer fatigue.

Moncler plans to open around 18 new shops this year to add to the six unveiled in the first quarter, in locations including Moscow and Hong Kong.

Asked about the crisis in Ukraine, Ruffini said the number of Russians shopping in Milan, Paris and London had decreased, but the company had seen no tangible effect on its business.

“For sure it’s a concern for the future, but for the moment we don’t have any numbers that say it’s a problem,” Ruffini said.

Moncler shares hit their lowest level since their December listing on Thursday, closing at 11.99 euros before results were announced. The stock soared 40 percent at its debut and reached an all-time high of 16.35 euros in January, but has slowly tumbled since.

Concerns about high valuations and lower growth momentum has caused volatility in other Italian luxury stocks including Prada (1913.HK) and Tod’s (TOD.MI).

Reporting by Isla Binnie, editing by David Evans

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