France's L'Oreal marks 9 pct increase in Q1 sales

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PARIS (AP) — French cosmetics giant L'Oreal said Thursday that its revenue grew strongly in the first quarter of the year, driven by booming sales in emerging markets.

The company behind Maybelline cosmetics and Garnier hair products pulled in €5.6 billion ($7.4 billion) in revenue from January to March — a 9.4 percent increase over the same quarter last year and more than the consensus expectation of analysts surveyed by FactSet of €5.5 billion.

The global economic slowdown and Europe's debt crisis has hit sales in L'Oreal's traditional core market of Western Europe, but the company has continued to manage reliable growth by pushing into Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In fact, sales in new markets — which also includes Africa and Eastern Europe — outpaced those in Western Europe for the first time this quarter, a trend the company has said it intends to nurture.

Sales in new markets totaled €2.09 billion, a 14.1 percent increase. More than half of that was in Asia. Western Europe, meanwhile, came in at €1.95 billion, just 2.3 percent up.

"These performances demonstrate the relevance of our strategic thrusts and the solidity of the L'Oreal business model, based on excellence in research and creativity in marketing," said chief executive Jean-Paul Agon.

He confirmed that the company still believes it will outperform the market for the year despite the difficult economic environment — a relatively modest goal given the company's typical performance.

The group, which includes product lines such as Kiehl's and The Body Shop, saw increases in sales in all divisions and all regions. The biggest growth, as usual, was in Asia, with a 22.6 percent increase.

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