Asia PacificPrada profits recover in second half after virus-driven slump

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A man wearing a face mask following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak walks past a store of Italian luxury brand Prada on a shopping street in Beijing, China, January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

Italian fashion group Prada (1913.HK) reported a strong recovery in operating profits in the second half of 2020 thanks to soaring Asian sales and an e-commerce push combined with strict controls over costs and investments.

The positive sales trend also continued into the first months of 2021, the Milanese luxury brand said on Wednesday.

Full-year revenues fell by 24% to 2.42 billion euros ($2.9 billion) thanks to an improvement in the second half after a 40% slump in the first six months.

Lockdown measures to stem the spread of coronavirus led to around 18% of the group's store network being closed on average during the year and also hit tourism.

Chief Executive Patrizio Bertelli said Prada responded quickly to market changes, strengthening the relationship with local customers whose consumption in the second half of the year almost fully offset the absence of tourists.

"All of these initiatives led to a full recovery in the second half to pre-pandemic profitability levels," he said in a statement.

The recovery in retail sales, which account for around 90% of Prada's total, was driven in the second half by mainland China (+52%), Taiwan (+61%), Korea (+22%) and also by the Americas (+4%). Japan and Europe suffered from the lack of tourists and prolonged lockdowns.

The pandemic has pushed the whole luxury industry towards digital sales. Prada's e-commerce more than tripled versus 2019 levels, the Hong Kong listed company said.

"These results give us confidence to face the upcoming rebound, as soon as the most critical phase of the pandemic will end.", Bertelli said.

Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) totalled 20 million euros in the full-year, following a 216 million euro EBIT in the second half, broadly in line with the same period of 2019, after a 196 million euros operating loss in the first six months.

Analysts had expected revenues at 2.44 billion euros and an EBIT of 13.8 million, based on a Refinitiv analyst consensus.

Analysts did not expected any dividends, but Prada's board decided on a 0.035 euros per share payment after skipping any dividend payout last year.

($1 = 0.8411 euros)

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