French luxury giant LVMH on Tuesday posted record annual sales for 2018 and hiked its dividend by 20% despite economic headwinds in China.
LVMH (LVMH), which owns 70 luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Fendi and Givenchy, said in a statement that sales increased 10% last year to €46.8 billion ($53.5 billion). That performance met analyst expectations.
Sales in Asia (excluding Japan) increased 15% in 2018, the company said. That compares to growth of 17% in the previous year. LVMH said its wine and drinks business was particularly strong in China.
"We are being cautious," Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, said on a conference call with investors. "Nevertheless, we have started 2019 on a strong note."
Chinese shoppers are now responsible for a third of global luxury sales, according to a report by the consultancy Bain. LVMH was the first major luxury company to report full year results for 2018, and investors were looking to see whether slower growth in the world's second largest economy would reduce demand for handbags.
LVMH appears to have dodged the slowdown. The company said that sales in the fourth quarter of 2018, when Chinese economic data was weakest, increased 9% over the previous year to €13.7 billion ($15.6 billion).
China's economy grew at the slowest pace in nearly three decades in 2018, and the ongoing trade war with the United States could make this year even worse. Apple (AAPL) warned earlier this month that it would miss its revenue target for the final quarter of 2018 by at least $5 billion due to weak demand for iPhones in China.