Swatch has handily outrun the global watch crisis, it said Tuesday, with revived sales in Asia pushing 2017 profits more than 27 percent higher from the previous year.

The world's largest watchmaker saw its net profit swell to 755 million Swiss francs ($812 million, 651 million euros), more than a quarter higher than in 2016. Swatch, which is best known for its brightly coloured plastic-cased watches but which also owns 20 luxury brands including Breguet, Harry Winston and Omega, meanwhile said its operating profit rose 5.4 percent to 8.0 billion Swiss francs last year.

The results were above expectations, with analysts polled by Swiss financial news agency AWP anticipating it would rake in a net profit of 748 million Swiss francs on sales of 7.8 billion. That is good news for Swatch, which was hard hit when weak economic growth plunged Swiss watchmakers into crisis over the two previous years, following several years of sky-rocketing growth. Exports to China especially, which for years generated in double-digit growth, crashed hard following efforts to crack down on corruption there by banning extravagant gifts like expensive watches to public officials.

The company said its sales soared in particular in the Asia-Pacific region last year, although it did not provide a detailed regional breakdown of its results. Swatch said its watches and jewelry sales took off in especially in the second half of last year, shooting up 12.2 percent, largely thanks to more demand for luxury brands like Omega. But Swatch, whose lower-end brands have been facing ballooning competition from Apple and other smart-watch makers, stressed that it had seen "highly accelerated sales growth in all price segments".

The company pointed out that it had seen "impressive growth rates" during the second half of the year for lower and middle range watches like Flik Flak, Swatch and Tissot, despite the fact that the Swiss watch industry as a whole had been "clearly negative" in these segments. "This indicates a massive gain in market share in these segments," it said. Looking forward, the company said it "anticipates further very positive growth in local currencies in 2018." Following the news, Swatch saw its share price shoot up more than four percent in late afternoon trading to 416.80 Swiss francs, as the Swiss stock exchange's main SMI index inched down 0.4 percent.(AFP)

 

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