(Adds CEO, analyst, share price, background)
COPENHAGEN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Jewellery maker Pandora reported lower than expected sales in Asia and warned that U.S. markets remain weak, sending shares in the Danish-listed company lower on Tuesday.
The company, known for its charm bracelets, said sales in Asia Pacific grew 13 percent in local currencies to 1.39 billion Danish crowns ($231.76 million) in the fourth quarter, falling short of analyst expectations of 1.62 billion.
Australia, its biggest market in the region, saw a 3 percent fall in sales, mainly due to a drop in the number of Chinese tourists.
“Asia is the big disappointment, especially Australia,” said Alm Brand Markets analyst Michael Friis Jorgensen. “The last thing Pandora needs now is a new region with problems”.
Shares in Pandora have lost around a third of their value in the past year, hit by weak growth in the United States, its top market.
“The retail market in the U.S. is challenged and that is continuing,” Chief Executive Anders Colding Friis told Reuters.
Pandora aims to rectify the weakness by launching new designs and increasing online sales, he said.
Shares in Pandora were down 3.6 percent at 0959 GMT on Tuesday, underperforming weak European stock markets that were dragged down by inflation worries. Copenhagen’s benchmark index was down 1.6 percent.
Pandora on Tuesday launched a 4 billion Danish crown ($665.50 million) share buyback programme for 2018, up from 1.7 billion last year, but said it would halve the dividend payout compared to last year to 2 billion crowns.
“Whilst we didn’t come across any investors who were pro higher buybacks, we spoke to many that were pro dividends. Therefore we expect the announcement this morning to be taken negatively,” said Berenberg analysts. ($1 = 5.9975 Danish crowns)
Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Louise Heavens