Customers queue to enter a Louis Vuitton store, operated by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Hong Kong, China, on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012. Hong Kong's economy is set for its weakest annual expansion since the global financial crisis as the European sovereign debt crisis damps global trade. Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

LVMH recorded its first fall in operating profit in five years on Tuesday as the biggest luxury group by sales contended with the rapidly changing habits of Chinese consumers.

The Paris-based group said that operating profit last year was €5.7bn, 5 per cent lower than in 2013 and slightly lower than analysts’ forecasts.

Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman and chief executive, said: “The 2014 results confirm the capacity for LVMH to progress despite economic and currency uncertainty.”

Mr Arnault, who is France’s richest man, underlined that revenue for 2014 of €30.6bn hit new levels.

Net income for last year rose 64 per cent to €5.65bn as LVMH booked a €2.81bn capital gain after distributing its 23 per cent stake in rival Hermès to investors.

The company unwound its position in order to settle a bitter four-year dispute with the family that controls Hermès, which had attacked LVMH for building up the stake.

However, annual sales at LVMH’s fashion and leather goods division, which includes Louis Vuitton, rose just 3 per cent on an organic basis compared with 2013, against 5 per cent the previous year.

Sales at LVMH’s wines and spirits division shrank by 3 per cent on a comparative basis against 2013. During the previous year, the division had seen a 6 per cent growth in sales.

Overall, 2014 annual sales grew 5 per cent on a comparative basis against an annual increase of 8 per cent in 2013.

Like luxury sector rivals, LVMH is facing slowing demand from Chinese shoppers against a backdrop of a less-vibrant domestic economy and an anti-corruption campaign.

Luxury groups are also contending with tensions between Europe and Russia, curbing Russian shoppers’ spending, along with terrorism concerns.

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