Cartier to expand in US, Middle East

Updated: 2011-01-19 14:04

By Tom Mulier (China Daily)

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Cartier to expand in US, Middle East

Bernard Fornas, chief executive officer of Cartier, says the company is accelerating boutique openings in the Middle East and the United States in case of a slowdown in the Chinese market. [Photo / Bloomberg News]

GENEVA - Cartier, the jewelry maker is accelerating boutique openings in the Middle East and the United States in case the Chinese market slows down.

The jeweler is adding more shops in the Middle East, Europe and the US to diversify its risk, said Bernard Fornas, chief executive officer of the brand, a unit of Cie Financiere Richemont SA. He declined to give any numbers for the openings.

"You have to prepare yourself for the worst when everything is going well," he said in an interview at the Geneva watch fair.

Richemont on Monday said sales in the three months through December rose 33 percent, led by a 57 percent jump in the Asia-Pacific region.

Cartier will continue adding boutiques in China, where it has about 37 shops, as the country is "so big and so rich" it still has a "lot of potential", Fornas said.

"There are always risks everywhere," he said. "You cannot control the risk, because the risk comes one morning."

China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 3 percent on Monday, the biggest drop in two months, after the central bank ordered lenders to set aside more reserves and rising property prices signaled that tightening measures may be expanded.

A quarter of Cartier's sales probably come from China, Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Capital Markets, said by e-mail.

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"While there might be a temporary slowdown, it will be more a deceleration from high levels, and I don't see it going backwards," he said.

Swiss watch sales in China will probably increase 20 percent to 25 percent this year, slowing from more than 30 percent in 2010, said Rene Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel.

Cartier is expanding in the Middle East to benefit from oil wealth as the price of crude trades above $90 a barrel, Fornas said. The brand is also opening larger and better-located shops in Europe and adding stores in the US.

"The US has been slow to take off, but it will come back, I'm sure. They are not dead," the CEO said. "So let's be prepared to grasp the potential of all these regions."

Richemont gets about half its sales from its jewelry unit, which includes Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. The jewelry unit's sales rose 30 percent in the quarter through December.

Fornas, born in 1947, became head of Cartier in 2002 after leading Richemont's Baume & Mercier brand and following a career that spanned companies from Procter & Gamble Co to the International Gold Corp and perfume-maker Guerlain.

Cartier back to 1847, when Louis-Francois Cartier took over the jewelry workshop where he was an apprentice at age 29.

Bloomberg News


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