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Prada Earnings: Designer Concerned With 'Uncertain' Economic Climate Even As Profits Double In First Quarter

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PRADA
AP


* Q1 revs 686.7 mln euros vs 640 mln eur f'cast

* Net profit 121.7 mln vs 98 mln eur f'cast

* EBIT doubles, outpaces revenue growth

* Europe, Asia markets remain strong

By Antonella Ciancio and Farah Master

MILAN/HONG-KONG, June 7 (Reuters) - Italian fashion group Prada SpA shrugged off concerns of softer consumption of its leather handbags and brightly-coloured shoes in China and Europe, as first-quarter results beat forecasts and retail-driven profits grew faster than sales.

The Milan-based maker of Miu Miu dresses said net profit more than doubled to 121.7 million euros ($152 million) as the company's focus on Asia and its retail expansion paid off.

"Although we have seen these encouraging outcomes, we must consider ... the rising risks deriving from the uncertain international economic environment," the group said, adding it would focus on cash-flow generation and financial flexibility.

The European market achieved the best performance, growing 57 percent, followed by Asia, which makes around 38 percent of sales. The U.S. market grew by more than a third.

In the three months ended in April, earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose 106 percent to 164.8 million euros, driven by retail sales, and declining markdowns.

Listed in Hong Kong, Prada's shares have gained nearly 30 percent so far this year, easily outperforming the benchmark Hang Seng Index's 1.3 percent gain.

The luxury goods industry has enjoyed a strong recovery from the 2008 financial panic, helped by new-money buyers travelling through Europe and the United States.

But concerns about a worsening euro-zone crisis, a sluggish U.S. recovery and a possible slowdown in Asian luxury markets have spooked stock markets since April.

Tiffany & Co has cut its fiscal-year sales and profit forecasts on economic concerns in China and the United States, while Tod's and Brunello Cucinelli have seen negative sales in recession-hit Italy.

Prada, which floated in Hong Kong a year ago, said revenue climbed 47.9 percent, above estimates.

China's luxury market is poised to grow 18 to 20 percent this year, outperforming the single-digit forecasts for Europe, the Americas and Japan, according to U.S. consultancy Bain. (Additional reporting by Alison Leung in Hong Kong and; Sabina Suzzi in Milan; Editing by David Holmes)

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