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Jeweler Bulgari sees brighter prospects for second half of year

Bulgari CEO Jean Christophe Babin poses for a photograph inside a flagship store in central London, Britain, April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Li-mei Hoang

LONDON (Reuters) - Bulgari, the flagship jewelry brand of luxury industry leader LVMH (LVMH.PA), sees growth picking up in the second half of the year after sales suffered following the attacks in Paris in November."If we keep that traction through the summer, the second half could indeed be much stronger in terms of growth rate," Chief Executive Jean-Christophe Babin told Reuters in a interview at the company's newly refurbished flagship store in central London.

Speaking at the marble-floored store in New Bond Street, Babin added that the jeweler, founded in Rome in 1884, aims to grow sales by more than 10 percent this year.

Bulgari is the world's third largest watch and jewelry maker behind Richemont's (CFR.VX) Cartier and Tiffany (TIF.N) generating annual revenue estimated between 1.5 and 2 billion euros ($1.7-2.25 billion).

The jewelry sector and particularly the best known brands have been bucking the luxury goods slowdown because their rare, high-end pieces are regarded as good investments with strong potential re-sale value at auctions.

Demand from affluent Asian woman increasingly buying jewelry for themselves has also been driving up sales.

LVMH does not publish figures for individual brands but its watches and jewelry unit, of which Bulgari makes up a significant proportion, were up 7 percent in the first quarter to 774 million euros, contrasting with fashion and leather sales which remained flat.

Bulgari, whose jewelry items range from 1,000 to 10 million euros, has some 300 stores worldwide and plans to add around 12 stores in 2016, Babin said.

Wealthy customers are whisked through the London store to private upstairs rooms where they can examine potential purchases.

Babin, sporting a Bulgari watch, said he was also looking at expanding the company's small but fast growing e-commerce business, which currently operates in the United States and Japan, to drive further growth in countries such as China, Canada and Russia.


(editing by Astrid Wendlandt and Keith Weir)