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Revived Richemont appoints new boss

Richemont's new CEO, Norbert Platt, will be taking a close look at some well-known brands.

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss-based Richemont group has named Norbert Platt, head of its successful Montblanc writing instruments division, as its new CEO.

Richemont, the world’s second-largest luxury goods maker, also announced a 17 per cent rise in sales for April to August – well above market expectations.

Executive chairman Johann Rupert

We have now reached turnaround point.

But the company warned that, while the market for luxury goods is now definitely picking up after a three-year recession, it is difficult to predict whether the trend will continue.

Executive chairman and outgoing CEO Johann Rupert told Thursday’s annual general meeting in Geneva that he had intended to step down from the latter post as soon as the group was showing robust growth.

“Upon becoming chairman, I indicated to my colleagues that I would only hold the dual role until I could see that our performance had turned around.

“We have now arrived at that point. Our balance sheet is in excellent shape, our cash flows are strong, and our Maisons [houses] are performing better than ever.”

Rupert said he expected profitability to be significantly improved in the first half of its business year, which runs from April to March.

Sluggish

However, he added that while the market situation today was better than a year ago prospects for the US economy were unclear and Europe remained a “very sluggish” market.

Current growth was coming largely from Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.

Analyst James Amoroso, of Swiss private bank Pictet & Cie, welcomed both the latest sales figures and the appointment of Platt as new group CEO.

He told swissinfo that sales had clearly beaten market expectations, including his own. But he cautioned that the outlook for the luxury goods market remained uncertain.

“What this shows is that the recovery has happened faster than expected. But that does not necessarily mean we can expect similar growth going forward, as there is no evidence that the underlying consumer trends are any better.”

Successful

Amoroso said the appointment of Platt was good news for shareholders, as Montblanc under his stewardship had proved to be Richemont’s most successful brand by far.

With regard to potential future changes in group strategy, he added, “I don’t know what Platt’s thinking will be, but his position as the head of Richemont’s only recession-proof brand means his word will carry weight.”

Richemont shares rose following the joint announcement.

swisssinfo, Chris Lewis

In brief

Richemont has appointed a new CEO and announced a 17 per cent rise in sales for the five months to August.

The figures clearly beat market expectations, although they may not reflect longer-term trends.

The new CEO, Norbert Platt, comes with a good track record – he currently heads Richemont’s most successful division, Montblanc.

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Key facts

Swiss-based Richemont is the world’s second-largest luxury goods group.
Its brands include Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Jaeger-LeCoultre, as well as a stake in British American Tobacco.
The luxury goods sector, which is particularly vulnerable to general economic trends, was badly hit by the war in Iraq and the Sars virus.

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