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Tiffany sees Asia fuelling bigger sales gains this year

A woman walks out of the Tiffany & Co store on Fifth Avenue in New York.

© Lucas Jackson / Reuters/REUTERS

Tiffany & Co. said on Friday that the pace of its worldwide sales growth would pick up again this year, with Asia leading the increases, and its shares rose 4 per cent.

The forecast of 6 per cent to 8 per cent sales growth suggests a return to the more robust gains Wall Street has come to expect from the high-end jeweller after a year when sales suffered from weak demand for its inexpensive silver jewellery and slower growth in China.

The New York company, which has been expanding aggressively in markets like China, had lowered its own projections several times in the last year, raising fears that its torrid growth of recent years was ending.

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Tiffany, famed for its blue boxes and expensive necklaces, said it expected sales in Asia, excluding Japan, to rise at a mid-teens percentage rate this year, compared with 8 per cent last year.

Fashion brands Burberry Group and Hugo Boss AG , handbag maker Coach Inc and Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group SA have also been upbeat about China in recent weeks.

Tiffany's sales forecast implies a sales range this year of $4.02-billion (U.S.) to $4.1-billion, largely above the $4.03-billion Wall Street analysts were projecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Global sales rose 4.1 per cent to $1.24-billion in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, while sales at stores open at least a year were unchanged. The results were consistent with the November-December sales that Tiffany reported right after the holiday season.

Still, Tiffany reported a 3-per-cent decline in sales at its Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan, compared with a 2-per-cent drop in the first two months of the quarter, suggesting worsening trends in January.

During the quarter, earnings rose to $179.6-million, or $1.40 per share, from $178.4-million, or $1.39 a share, a year earlier.

The results beat analysts' estimates by 5 cents a share.

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The company said it expected a profit of $3.43 to $3.53 per share this fiscal year.

As Tiffany's same-store sales cooled last year, many Wall Street analysts wondered if the retailer was expanding too quickly.

But Tiffany said on Friday that it planned to open 15 stores this year, including seven in Asia. It will close one store in Japan, its second-largest market, but one of its slowest now.

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