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Richemont names new co-CEOs as growth slows

By Silke Koltrowitz

ZURICH (Reuters) - Richemont on Friday named Cartier chief Bernard Fornas and deputy chief executive Richard Lepeu as joint CEOs to navigate the luxury goods group through a period of slowing sales growth in its important Asian markets.

They will take over from executive chairman Johann Rupert, who also held the role of CEO since 2010. He will step down from that role on April 1, 2013, but remain chairman, Richemont said.

The announcement came as the Geneva-based group reported a slowdown in sales growth to 7 percent at constant exchange rates in October from 12 percent in the first half.

The world's second largest luxury goods group after France's LVMH remained tight-lipped on its trading outlook, saying only that good growth in Europe supported by Asian tourists is compensating for slower domestic Asia Pacific sales.

"For the second half of the year, the comparatives are likely to be impacted by less favourable exchange rates," the group said.

Richemont said in a presentation overall growth in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounted for 41 percent of group sales in the first half, was "normalizing" after two exceptional years.

Growth in the region slid to 9 percent in the first half from 60 percent in the year-ago period.

"The slowdown to 7 percent in October appears reasonable enough - however, Asia Pacific and Americas appears to have declined at mid single-digit growth rates in October, which might raise eyebrows," Kepler Capital Markets analyst Jon Cox said.

"I think the slowdown is temporary and we certainly aren't seeing a repeat of 2007-8. Post elections in the U.S. and China, I suspect sentiment will improve," he said.

Strong sales growth between April and September helped net profit at the maker of Cartier watches and Montblanc pens soar 52 percent to 1.08 billion euros, beating a 1.04 billion forecast in a Reuters poll.

(Editing by David Cowell)

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