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Luxottica Q4 sales down, optimistic on 2010
* 2009 consolidated sales down 2.1 percent
* First signs in new year "encouraging" - CEO
* Shares closed up 0.6 percent before statement
(Adds more detail, background)
MILAN, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Italian eyewear maker Luxottica (LUX.MI) posted a more than 6 percent fall in fourth-quarter sales on Monday but said the overall scenario was stabilising and forecast a return to growth in 2010.
Luxottica, the world's biggest premium eyewear company, said 2010 would mark a "return to 'normal'" for the maker of Prada and Ray-Ban sunglasses, resulting in growing sales, a more than proportional increase in margins and "an appreciable reduction" in the ratio of net debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).
It said markets continued to stabilise in the fourth quarter.
"Luxottica believes that the overall scenario seems to have stabilized," Chief Executive Andrea Guerra said in a statement.
"Measures taken during the course of last year will take full effect in 2010, a year in which the group expects to see a return to growth, a key element of its DNA. With respect to this, the first signs in the new year were encouraging."
Guerra has previously said Luxottica was working towards making 2010 "a return to normality".
Luxottica said consolidated fourth quarter sales fell 6.4 percent to 1.157 billion euros ($1.64 billion). They fell 1.1 percent at constant exchange rates.
For the full year 2009, consolidated sales fell 2.1 percent to 5.094 billion euros. They were down 4.5 percent at constant exchange rates.
The company said it expects a "positive performance" in Europe, the United States and especially in emerging markets this year. However, experts have said a tepid recovery is seen in global luxury goods sales this year. [nLJ75246]
Luxottica shares closed up 0.6 percent at 18.92 euros before the statement came out.
(Editing by Sharon Lindores)
((Milan newsroom +39 02 6612 9507, fax +39 02 801 149, email@example.com)) Keywords: LUXOTTICA/
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