ZURICH Growing sales to 8 billion Swiss francs (5.33 billion pounds) this year is still possible for the world's biggest watchmaker despite the negative impact of the weak dollar, Swatch Group Chief Executive Nick Hayek said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday.
"We said it was our goal to reach gross sales of 8 billion Swiss francs this year. We can still get there even if the weak dollar gives us less flexibility, it is not really helpful," he told Swiss French-language newspaper Le Temps.
Swatch Group had sales of 7.1 billion francs in 2011 and Hayek has warned several times that reaching the 8-billion mark in 2012 would be challenging due also to slowing growth in the important Chinese market and to the euro zone crisis.
Hayek said in the interview watches in the entry and mid-price segments were still showing dynamic growth in China and had never really dipped, while high-end growth rates had fallen to 2-5 percent.
Swatch is present in all price segments, including entry and mid-level with brands such as Swatch, Tissot and Longines, while peer Richemont (CFR.VX) specialises in high-end luxury watches.
Hayek said five of its brands would next year generate more than one billion francs sales, versus three this year, without naming them. Swatch Group's strongest brand, which is estimated to generate over 3 billion francs sales, is Omega.
Asked about the growth prospects for the Swiss watch industry next year, he said: "Our industry has become less cyclical. ... Growth potential for the sector is about 5-7 percent next year."
Hayek said Swatch Group would end the year with around 1,000 additional jobs in Switzerland versus 2011 and would continue to focus on training young professionals.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; editing by James Jukwey)