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Swatch CEO hopes for 9 billion Sfr sales in 2013: paper

Swatch watches are displayed in front of a shop at the central station in Zurich February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Swatch watches are displayed in front of a shop at the central station in Zurich February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swatch Group might be able to achieve sales of 9 billion Swiss francs ($9.36 billion) this year, Chief Executive Nick Hayek was quoted as saying on Sunday, adding the important Chinese market recovered in June.

"The first half of the year was certainly much more difficult than last year. But I see very good growth opportunities for the Swiss watch industry for the second half of the year," he told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

Hayek said sales of the priciest products had suffered most in China in the first five months of the year, but Swatch had still seen double-digit growth for its brands in the high, medium and lowest price categories.

"The situation in the luxury market in China improved in June," he added.

Switzerland's watch industry has been grappling with weak demand in China, where a slowing economy and a crackdown on lavish gifts weigh on sales, and Europe, where austerity programs hit consumer spending.

With its entry-price Swatch brand and mid-price Tissot and Longines, Swatch Group, which also owns high-end Omega, is less exposed than peer Richemont to very expensive watches targeted by a Chinese government anti-corruption campaign.

Hayek said Swatch's purchase this year of the high-end jewelry arm of Harry Winston might allow the firm to reach gross sales of 9 billion francs this year, assuming significant improvements in currency effects.

Swatch saw gross sales rise 14 percent to 8.143 billion francs in 2012.

Analysts predict Swatch will report 2013 sales of 8.8 billion francs on average, Reuters data shows.

Hayek said he hoped the Harry Winston business would "soon" be able to achieve sales of 1 billion francs under Swatch leadership, compared to the $430 million it turned over in 2012.

($1 = 0.9616 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)