* Q1 profit lags forecasts, keeps 2018 outlook
* Flags slowdown in China
* UK, U.S. markets remain challenged
* Reception of new collection is “encouraging”
* Shares fall 10 percent (Adds share price, CEO quotes)
COPENHAGEN, May 15 (Reuters) - Shares in Danish jewellery maker Pandora, known for its charm bracelets, fell sharply on Tuesday after it reported lower than expected first-quarter profit and warned of a slowdown in China.
The world’s largest jewellery maker by production volume also said UK and U.S. markets were held back by fewer people shopping in malls and a lack of new products.
Growth in China, which accounted for 12 percent of the company’s total sales in the first quarter, slowed down and Pandora said it was taking action to reverse the decline.
“We had hoped for and expected more,” Pandora CEO Anders Colding Friis told Reuters.
He said the company will limit the grey market in China, where increasing numbers of jewellery pieces are imported to China from other markets and sold online.
“This is a very Chinese problem. We see that this has accelerated over the past months and we will do what we can to limit it,” Friis said.
He said Pandora will also increase spending on marketing and aims to return to positive like-for-like sales growth in China this year.
Like-for-like sales fell in China, although revenue still rose 16 percent in local currencies compared with the year-ago quarter.
First-quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came in at 1.67 billion Danish crowns, undershooting the 1.75 billion estimated by analysts polled by Reuters.
Shares in Pandora fell 10 percent by 0738 GMT, on track for the worst daily performance in four months.
Its more developed markets were also weak, with UK sales flat and U.S. sales dropping 8 percent in local currencies in the quarter.
Pandora, which produced 334,000 pieces of jewellery each day on average in 2016, hopes to boost sales by accelerating the number of designs being launched and increasing the number of self-owned stores rather than franchises.
The initial reception to its newest gold-plated ‘Shine’ collection, launched in March, had been “encouraging”, but Friis declined to provide details on sales.
Pandora launched 150 new products during the first quarter and plans an additional 500 for the rest of the year.
The weaker retail environment is partly due to a shift by younger consumers away from jewellery and towards buying technology and spending on experiences.
Sales rose 6 percent, in line with the company’s target for first-quarter sales slightly below the full-year forecast for 7 to 10 percent, which it kept unchanged.
Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Louise Heavens