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Swatch Group reports slowdown in 2008 sales

The world's leading watchmaker, the Swatch Group, has seen net sales practically stagnate in 2008 after poor year-end demand.

Net sales rose by 0.5 per cent to SFr5.7 billion ($4.93 billion), with overall gross sales up by 4.3 per cent, the group announced on Thursday.

It followed a record financial year for the group in 2007. The group said after a promising start to 2008 "turmoil and enormous destruction of wealth in the financial markets worldwide" had affected many countries' economies and had led to a "noticeable drop" in watch demand in the last two months of 2008.

Watches and jewellery were the group's core business activities and the main growth factors.

The Biel-based group said it had a "cautious but not pessimistic outlook" for 2009 and expected sales to rise modestly after an anticipated boost in consumer spending in the second half of the year.

The group, known for its plastic Swatch watches, also owns high-end brands such as Breguet and Omega.

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