Attendees arrive to an event as LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton announces full year earnings in Paris. (Bloomberg)

Sales growth at luxury goods group LVMH <LVMH.PA> slowed slightly in the fourth quarter, which the Louis Vuitton owner attributed partly on Tuesday to a blip in Japan, though demand held up well across the rest of Asia.

Investors are increasingly focussing on how firms in the sector will weather pressures on appetite from the Chinese customers they rely on this year, amid fears since the start of 2019 of a fallout from China’s fast-spreading coronavirus.

Firms are also grappling with turmoil in Hong Kong, a key market where some have had to close stores during street protests, though many including LVMH have until now managed to offset losses there in mainland China and other regions.

LVMH, which posted record revenues and profits for the whole of 2019, said in a statement that fourth quarter sales rose 12% to 15.27 billion euros (13 billion pounds).

That marked an increase of 8% increase on a like-for-like basis, which strips out currency swings and acquisitions, and compared with forecasts cited by analysts and Reuters estimates of closer to 9% growth.

Like-for-like sales had grown 11% in the previous three months.

LVMH said that fourth quarter sales would have expanded at a faster pace without one-off effects, including a shopping spurt in Japan ahead of a sales tax hike which had led clients to bring forward purchases to the third quarter.

The Hennessy manufacturer said cognac stock shortages in the last three months of the year, an issue it regularly faces in the United States, had also had an impact on sales.

In LVMH’s core fashion and handbags division, home to Vuitton and other big brands such as Christian Dior, sales held up well in the quarter, expanding 15% on a like-for-like basis.

That was in line or a touch above some analysts’ forecasts.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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