Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Profits up at luxury group Hermes

Hermes, Shanghai
Hermes plans to expand its chain of stores in Asia and the US

French luxury goods firm Hermes has said profits rose in 2008, shrugging off concerns about the impact of the global economic downturn.

Shares gained 3.1% in Paris as its profit of 290m euros ($395m; £273m) was higher than analysts had forecast and the company increased its dividend.

Hermes generated revenues of 1.76bn euros last year, up 8.6% from 2007.

It said sales so far in 2009 were "slightly" higher thanks to the stronger dollar and yen.

Asian boost

Hermes, famous for its handbags and silk ties, proposed a dividend of 1.03 euros, up from 1 euro the previous year.

It said all regions had registered growth except for Japan, which is traditionally one of the largest markets for luxury goods. Same-store sales in Japan fell 3% last year.

But the company was boosted by strong demand for its products in the rest of Asia, Europe and the US.

Asian sales were up 22% after the company opened three new stores in China and its first in India, in New Delhi.

Sales rose 7% in Europe at stores that have been open for at least a year, while sales increased 15% in the US.

Hermes, which also owns also owns the English shoe maker John Lobb, increased its stake in the French fashion design house of Jean-Paul Gaultier to 45% from 35%.

The company also said it planned to expand and renovate or open 20 outlets in 2009, mainly in the US and Asia.

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