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Paris-based luxury giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton today announced 2000 earnings, saying operating profits rose 27%, but that slower sales growth reflected weakening currency in two key markets, Japan and the U.S. The increase to $1.82 billion from $1.4 billion in 1999 failed to match market expectations, which had been for a 29% jump to $1.9 billion.

LVMH also reported a strong sales performance for the first two months of 2001, showing an increase of 13% over the same period in 2000. This, however, pales in comparison to its 35% leap for the first two months of last year. LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault said the economic outlook was uncertain but that he expects results to improve by year's end.

"The first half will be affected by morose American sentiment, but each time we have gone through a period of uncertainty, we have made progress in relation to competitors," he said.

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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