Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Prada loses US$700m in value on China slowdown


A man walks past a Prada SpA advertisement at a pop-up store operated by the fashion house inside the Galaxy Macau casino and hotel in Macau on Feb. 19.

Photo: Bloomberg

China’s slowdown has claimed another corporate scalp, with shares of Italian fashion house Prada SpA sliding the most since January after a pullback in the world’s biggest consumer market contributed to an unexpected drop in annual profit.

The Hong Kong-listed luxury group attributed a slump in Asia mostly to Chinese tourists pulling back spending in Hong Kong and Macau because of the weakness in the yuan.

Other luxury brands, including Gucci, have seen the impact of softer buying by Chinese tourists offset by increased spending in China, but Prada failed to get a similar boost from Chinese spending at home, said Citigroup Inc analysts led by Thomas Chauvet.

Prada’s China sales were flat for the year, a “significant swing” after a first-half gain of 17 percent, Citigroup said.

Yesterday’s stock plunge after the disappointing earnings shaved US$700 million off the company’s market value.

Chinese consumers have turned cautious amid the slowest economic expansion in almost three decades and a trade spat with the US.

While cars and iPhones have seen bigger slumps so far, Prada’s results would spark worry that China’s newly wealthy middle class is now scaling back on high-end purchases.

For an industry that relies on Chinese demand for 30 percent of US$1 trillion in global luxury spending, that is a chilling prospect.

Prada’s operating profit declined 10 percent to 323.8 million euros (US$366 million), falling short of the 378 million euros predicted by analysts.

Prada stock has lost about 36 percent over the past year.

CMB International Securities Ltd (招銀國際證券) analyst Walter Woo (胡永匡) said the profit miss was surprising, even after the firm downgraded its forecast on weaker China sales.

“We haven’t seen significant recovery in its China sales during the first two months this year after a weak fourth quarter in 2018,” Woo said. “We still expect the business improvement for Prada will be slower than peers in 2019, as it takes time for the brand to upgrade its product design and retail operations in the country.”

Prada has seen its earnings tumble for four straight years, falling more than 50 percent since their 2014 peak as the group raised handbag prices and took too long to come up with products to follow up its best-selling Galleria line.

However, this year, revenue returned to growth as the brand rolled out new handbags like the US$3,000 Sidonie shoulder bag and fresh shapes in its more affordable black nylon that helped win the favor of younger shoppers.

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