"All the cosmetic divisions have made a good start to the year and the achievements in each geographical zone are in line with our expectations," said L'Oréal's CEO Lindsay Owen-Jones.
L'Oréal reported consolidated sales of €3.7 billion, up 5.4 per cent - based on constant group structure and exchange rates - in comparrison to a year earlier for the first quarter of 2004 ended 31 March. The impact of currency fluctuations resulted in a drop of 4.5 per cent however for the same period.
The active cosmetics division showed the greatest growth overall with a 15.7 per cent increase to €273 million in comparrison to the previous year. Consumer sales remained the most profitable division for the company achieving €2 billion in sales despite a fairly stagnant growth in comparrison to a year earlier.
"These figures seem extremely encouraging even if we attach only relative importance to the performance of a single quarter. It should be noted that the first quarter of last year was particularly strong reflecting the decision at the time to bring forward launches notably in the Consumer Division," said Owen-Jones.
In West Europe growth remained stagnant but progression came on top of a particularly high base of comparison for the previous year claimed the company - when the region turned out L'Oréal's best operating profit of 14.8 per cent.
In North America, L'Oréal's core market, sales growth fell by 5.7 per cent but continued to be successful in light of the 12.9 per cent profit margin achieved for the year in 2003.
"In the coming months a more favourable historical comparison should allow us to further improve our growth rate. The impact of currency fluctuations, once again strongly negative at the end of March, should be noticeably reduced over the rest of the year, based on present exchange rates," said Owen-Jones.
The rest of the world achieved double-digit rates of growth with Asia returning €313 million in sales, a 13.3 per cent growth in comparrison to the previous year.
The acquisition of the controlling interest in Shu Uemura in Japan, and of Mininurse in China, led to a net structural impact of 0.4 per cent.
However the company's dermatology business was confronted with difficult conditions in the United States - L'Oréal's core market. Sales growth in the US dropped by 12.6 per cent in comparrison to the same quarter in 2003.
L'Oréal, the maker of Maybelline and Lancome make-up, posted a 13.5 per cent rise in annual net operating profits for 2003, from €1.46 billion in 2002 to €1.65 billion, outperforming the analyst forecast of €1.61 billion.