Hermes boosts dividend as luxury industry thrives

A couple walk with Hermes shopping bags as they leave a store in Paris. The luxury goods maker has reported a bumper year, buoyed by demand from China. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 March 2018
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Hermes boosts dividend as luxury industry thrives

PARIS: French luxury goods maker Hermes, known for $10,000-plus leather handbags such as the Birkin, rewarded shareholders on Wednesday with a higher dividend and a one-off payout after a bumper year for sales and profits.
The company, originally a saddle and harness maker founded in 1837, joined luxury rivals such as Louis Vuitton-owner LVMH and Gucci-parent Kering in benefiting from a rebound in demand from Asian shoppers in 2017.
Hermes shares rose 3.2 percent in early trade after the firm proposed a dividend of €4.10 ($5.03) per share, up 9 percent on a year earlier, and said it also planned a special dividend of €5 per share.
It last made a one-off payout in 2015.
Hermes also reported a record operating margin for last year, reaching 34.6 percent of sales and helped by high productivity at its workshops and the positive impact of currency hedges in the first half of 2017.
“We had an exceptional year in 2017,” CEO Axel Dumas told a briefing with analysts.
Dumas said that hedging against foreign exchange swings would have a slightly negative effect on margins this year, adding these would likely “normalize.” European-based luxury goods firms are grappling with the effects of a stronger euro.
Stocks of Hermes products ran very low at the end of 2017 as items sold out, a situation that was also atypical and which boosted margins, the company said, without detailing a forecast for 2018.
Hermes’ operating margin was 32.6 percent in 2016.
Sales trends in early 2018 had continued the positive momentum of last year, Dumas added.
Hermes, which has long waiting lists for some of its most coveted handbags, is expanding production to keep up with demand, and plans two more leather goods workshops by 2020 in France.
Like peers, it is looking to boost online sales, though it declined to detail how much revenue came from the web. Hermes is rolling out a revamped version of its website, due shortly in Europe after launching in the US and Canada.
By the end of the year, it also plans to set up its first e-commerce site in China, the biggest market for luxury players. Italy’s Gucci and France’s Louis Vuitton launched web sales platforms in China last year.
Hermes’ 2017 operating income was €1.92 billion ($2.36 billion), up 13 percent from a year earlier and in line with analyst forecasts, while net profit rose 11 percent to €1.22 billion.


Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

Updated 37 min 10 sec ago
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Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

  • The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios
  • SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year

RIYADH: Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. (SRC), modelled on US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae, aims to issue up to 4 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) of long-term sukuk this year, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios from mortgage financing companies and banks to boost the Kingdom’s secondary mortgage market.

SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview.

“Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said. “We are really looking at probably issuing something between ... 2 and 4 billion riyal that we may be issuing in two tranches.

He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10 to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said.

He said the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the local riyal.

In March, SRC completed a 750 million riyal sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to 11 billion riyals of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.

“The rule of the game for us is, like many projects across the Kingdom, attract liquidity from foreign investors,” Susini said.

He said SRC had spent 1.2 billion riyals from its balance sheet buying mortgages from local mortgage financing companies and provided liquidity to these firms.

It has also signed initial accords with several commercial banks to acquire housing mortgage portfolios.

Saudi Arabia’s housing ministry is targeting the mortgage market to reach a total value of 502 billion riyals by 2020 from around 300 billion riyals now.

The government wants to increase activity in the real estate market as it moves to revitalize the economy and is taking steps to reform the sector as part of its 2030 reform plan.

It has been working with developers and local banks to counter a shortage of affordable housing — one of the country’s biggest social and economic problems. Saudi Arabia wants 60 percent of its nationals to own homes by 2020, up from 47 percent in 2016.

The size of real estate financing relative to its gross domestic product is 5 percent in Saudi Arabia compared to 69 percent in the United States, 74 percent in the United Kingdom and 43 pct in Canada, the housing ministry has said.

“The goal of SRC in this market was to make sure that we will be able to refinance at least around 10 percent of the market in 2020, and 20 percent of the market by 2028,” Susini told Reuters.