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(Bloomberg) -- Swatch Group AG, Switzerland’s largest watchmaker, reported 2016 earnings that missed analyst estimates and its lowest profitability in at least 20 years as the industry struggled to find buyers for all the timepieces it produced.
Operating profit declined 45 percent to 805 million francs ($813 million), the Biel-based maker of Omega and Longines timepieces said in a statement Thursday. Analysts had expected 865 million francs. The company also cut its dividend as the operating margin narrowed to 10.7 percent from 17.2 percent.
Swatch forecast “healthy” growth in local currencies this year. Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek Jr., who has pledged to avoid job cuts, is under increasing pressure to reduce costs and rein in production. While rival Richemont cut 200 Swiss watchmaking jobs last year, Hayek has repeatedly said it’d be a mistake to get rid of highly skilled and sought-after watchmakers. He had said in July he expected an improvement in the end of 2016 after a 54 percent decline in first-half operating profit. Swatch gets about a third of its revenue from greater China region, according to Barclays analysts.
Swatch plans a dividend of 6.75 francs a bearer share and 1.35 francs per registered share. That’s down from 7.50 francs and 1.50 francs last year.
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