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Richemont sales increase 33% on Asia, yet fourth quarter to be tougher

Richemont , the world’s largest jewelry maker, said fiscal third-quarter revenue rose 33 percent, helped by Asian sales of watches, and repeated that the fourth quarter will be tougher.

Revenue in the three months ended Dec. 31 increased to 2.11 billion euros from 1.59 billion euros a year earlier, the Geneva-based owner of Cartier, Piaget and Mont Blanc. Richemont fell as much as 2.8 percent in Zurich trading as Chinese stocks declined the most in two months. China and Hong Kong imported $3.9 billion of Swiss timepieces in the first 11 months of 2010, accounting for a quarter of the European country’s watch exports. Richemont’s sales in the Asia-Pacific region rose 57 percent.

Richemont also said it expects the fourth quarter to be “more challenging” as year-earlier figures were stronger. A rising franc will cut into gross margin due to the company’s manufacturing in Switzerland. The franc gained 19 percent against the euro in 2010.

Richemont also said it expects changes to product lines at one of its watchmaking companies to weigh on its gross margin, without specifying which brand. Baume & Mercier, the luxury- goods maker’s lowest-end watch brand, plans to start selling new products in April, the company said in November.

Richemont bought full control last year of online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter.com and already announced plans to start a version for men called Mr. Porter.

Excluding currency shifts, third-quarter revenue climbed 23 percent, Richemont said. The average estimate of six analysts was for a 17 percent increase. Excluding Net-a-Porter and currency swings, sales rose 19 percent.

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