Cartier owner Richemont sees growth easing as economic worries rise

FILE PHOTO: Jewellery is displayed at a Cartier store on Place Vendome in Paris

By John Revill and Mimosa Spencer

ZURICH (Reuters) -Luxury group Richemont cautioned on Friday that economic worries and global tensions were weighing on consumer spending as the owner of Cartier jewellery reported first-half profits that missed forecasts, sending its shares down 6%.

The Swiss company, which also owns several high-end Swiss watch brands, such as IWC and Vacheron Constantin, is the latest luxury specialist to flag a slowdown in recent months as the post-pandemic spree wears off.

French rival LVMH last month reported a slowdown in demand for high-end goods in the United States and Europe where rising prices have prompted shoppers, especially younger generations, to cut back on spending.

Richemont on Friday joined what Bernstein analyst Luca Solca called the "moderation club," reporting constant currency sales growth easing to a 5% rate in July to September.

Sales had increased by 19% in the April to June period.

Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert said inflation, slowing economic growth and geopolitical insecurities were dampening sentiment, while the full effects of rising interest rates were still to be seen.

"It's no surprise to us that the market will slow down and across all asset classes, because that's the purpose," Rupert told reporters, referring to higher interest rates.

The post-COVID feel-good factor in China had also dissipated, as a property crisis and record youth unemployment have weighed on sentiment.

"They're not going out to bust their credit cards," Rupert said referring to Chinese customers, who make up 30% of Richemont's sales. "There is a bit of caution on their side."

Still, Rupert said Richemont was well equipped to withstand the slowdown, with cash on hand to continue investing in boutiques, products and marketing.

"I'm very positive about the medium term outlook. I've been involved with Cartier since 1976, trust me, I've seen a bunch of ups and downs and ups and downs," he said.

"So, I'm not concerned about the next three to five years. Certainly, we will use the opportunity to gain market share because we're in a position to support ourselves."

In the six months to the end of September, Richemont's sales rose by 6% to 10.22 billion euros ($10.9 billion), short of the 10.34 billion euros expected by analysts, while profit of 1.51 billion euros was below 2.17 billion euros forecast by analysts in a consensus cited by Zuercher Kantonalbank.

Still, despite missing sales and profit expectations, the company's performances in the United States and in jewellery sales were better than expected, said Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox, noting the outlook for a soft landing and expectations for improvement in China were "remarkably decent."

($1 = 0.9379 euros)

(Reporting by John Revill and Mimosa SpencerEditing by Miranda Murray, Shri Navaratnam, Tomasz Janowski and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)