Italy's Cucinelli set to miss 2020 targets due to COVID-19, halts dividend

MILAN, April 9 (Reuters) - Italian fashion group Brunello Cucinelli said on Thursday it would not fully meet its full-year targets because of the coronavirus crisis and would withdraw a proposal to pay a dividend on 2019 results.

But it said it expected to return to its normal pace of growth as early as next year.

The group known for its cashmere clothing is among the first of Italy’s luxury groups to publish first-quarter results. The sector is vital to the economy of Italy, which has been severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The depth and scope of this emergency will make it impossible to fully deliver the economic objectives we had set ourselves for 2020,” the group said in a statement.

It also said it would withdraw the proposal to pay a dividend on its 2019 results.

Chairman and Chief Executive Brunello Cucinelli said the group would reserve the option of reconsidering in the last quarter of the year “in the event of a rebalancing of the global economic context and with positive business prospects for 2021”.

It could require two or three months to get an overview of the whole year, but the group would return to “good growth and... to normality” as early as 2021, Cucinelli said.

Last year, the group said it expected revenues to rise by around 8% in 2020, and core earnings and profit to grow more than sales.

It said its first-quarter revenues fell 2.9% at constant exchange rates to 156.7 million euros ($170.24 million).

It was helped by limited exposure to China - which accounts for just over 7% of overall sales and is where the novel coronavirus outbreak began in late 2019.

For the second quarter, Cucinelli said the impact of the coronavirus would be bigger than for the first.

Sales and core profit have consistently increased since the group listed on the Milan bourse in 2012 and it has a low level of debt.

Earlier this week, another Italian luxury goods company Ferragamo announced a more than 30% fall in sales.

Analysts are expecting an average decline in revenue of around 20% for the industry in the quarter ending in March.

$1 = 0.9205 euros Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi; editing by Barbara Lewis