* Jewellery company lowers sales and margin guidanceTo cut almost 400 jobsHit by pressures in China, UK and US markets (Adds analyst comment, detail)
By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Teis Jensen
COPENHAGEN, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Shares in Danish jewellery maker Pandora plunged by a fifth to their lowest level in more than four years on Tuesday after the company issued a profit warning and announced plans to cut almost 400 jobs.
Pandora, known for its charm bracelets, lowered its sales and profit margin guidance for this year late on Monday, saying both had fallen in the second quarter.
The world’s largest jeweller by production volume, Pandora earlier this year warned of thinner margins due to slowing mall traffic in the United States and British markets, a lack of new products, and lower prices in China.
Shares were trading 19 percent lower at 347.9 Danish crowns at 1000 GMT, the lowest level since May 2014.
“Another profit warning just a few months after the updated mid-term targets may put the credibility of the current strategy and management team in question,” Berenberg analysts said in a note.
The analysts lowered their target price to 475 crowns from 555 crowns.
Pandora owns nearly 2,600 stores worldwide, but sales have slipped in its more than 600 stores in Britain and the United States as consumers there increasingly turn to online shopping, prompting hedge funds to increase short positions in the company.
The company said on Monday it would add around 250 concept stores this year, rather than the 200 it had planned.
The weaker retail environment has also been due to a shift by younger consumers away from jewellery and towards spending on technology and experiences.
China has with its growing middle class been a key growth market for affordable luxury jewellery makers like Pandora. But last month the Danish company said it was forced to lower retail prices in China by an average 15 percent to combat a rise in grey market sales.
The company had already in May warned of a slowdown on the Chinese market, which accounted for 12 percent of the company’s total sales in the first quarter.
Founded in Copenhagen in 1982, Pandora saw strong growth in the years after its listing in 2010 with shares rising almost 20-fold in the four years to 2016, topping 1,000 Danish crowns in May that year.
They have since shed almost two-thirds of their value, helped by some U.S. hedge fund taking large short positions in the stock.
“The management holds full responsibility for not preparing the organization for a situation where it is no longer steering a speed boat, but rather a container vessel,” said Per Hansen, economist at investment firm Nordnet.
“I think it requires a change of the management to restore investors’ trust,” he said.
The company said on Tuesday that it will cut 397 of its 27,000 employees to streamline operations and to protect profitability. More than half of the job losses will be in Thailand.
Pandora, which is due to publish its full second quarter results on Thursday, expects sales in local currencies to increase by between 4 and 7 percent this year, compared with the 7-10 percent it previously projected.
It also cut its forecast margin on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the year to around 32 percent from 35 percent.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Teis Jensen Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Keith Weir