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Hermes Sales Outstrip Luxury Rivals, Send Shares to Record

  • Hermes sales jump 17.5% in Q4
  • Outpaces rivals as economic conditions deteriorate
  • Will raise prices again this year
  • Shares hit record high, up 4.9% at 1138 GMT

PARIS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Hermes said it will further raise prices as its sales outpaced luxury competitors at the end of 2023, helping to lift shares in the Birkin bag maker to a record high.

The luxury goods firm plans to lift prices by between 8% and 9% this year globally, Hermes Executive Chairman Axel Dumas told reporters on Friday after reporting sales of 3.36 billion euros ($3.62 billion) for the three months to the end of December.

That represented a rise of 17.5% at constant foreign exchange rates and was ahead of analyst expectations for 14% growth, according to Visible Alpha consensus estimates.

"Hermes is playing in a different league," JPM analysts said in a note. "Hermes comes in today showing, in our view, what a real over delivery is about," they said, pointing at strong brand momentum and strong cash returns to shareholders.

The French group has become one of the most consistent performers in the luxury goods sector, including when economic conditions deteriorate, thanks to its classic designs and careful management of production and stock, which has helped maintain the label's aura of exclusivity.

Hermes raised prices by around 7% globally last year to account for higher production costs, with the exception of the U.S., where increases were around 3%, and Japan, where they were in the double digits due to currency fluctuations.

The price hikes, which are mostly implemented at the start of the year, reflect input costs including labour and raw materials, and fluctuating exchange rates, executives said.

Hermes said it will pay a 4,000 euro bonus to each of its more than 22,000 employees worldwide.

Dumas said pricing was not the main lever, adding: "We don't steer group growth through pricing strategies".

Although Chanel, LVMH-owned Dior and Louis Vuitton have raised prices of their handbags more aggressively since the pandemic, Hermes dominates the high end of the market.

Chanel's handbag prices have reached levels close to Hermes in recent years, but they fetch less on the secondary market.

Louis Vuitton, despite its large scale and "flawless" marketing execution, still struggles to sell significant amounts of handbags priced above 4,000 euros, Bernstein analysts said.

Hermes clocked strong growth in all regions, saying it had been "dynamic" in China where investors have been worrying about a stuttering post-COVID recovery.

"There has been no interruption in trends," Dumas said, noting that while he noticed lower mall traffic in China during his last trip there during the fourth quarter that was not reflected in the Hermes figures.

Hermes has a higher valuation than rivals with a 12 month forward price-to-earnings ratio based on projected earnings of 48.6, according to LSEG data. That compares with LVMH at 24.8 and Kering at 16.5.

Handbags like the coveted $10,000-plus Birkin model are affordable only for those shoppers who are typically more immune to uncertain economic conditions.

($1 = 0.9283 euros)

Writing by Mimosa Spencer and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Matt Scuffham, Elaine Hardcastle, Christian Schmollinger and Alexander Smith

Source: Reuters

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