By Myles McCormick for Financial Times
Flagging sales of pens in India and lighters in North America knocked revenues at French stationery maker Bic at the beginning of 2019.
The company, known for its ubiquitous biros and razors, said sales had fallen 2 per cent on a comparative basis to €415m in the first quarter of the year as its overall trading environment remained “challenging”.
Pre tax income dropped 18 per cent to €55m as South American exchange rates and rising raw material costs weighed on its margins.
Shares in Bic fell as much as 10 per cent in early Thursday trading, making it one of the worst performers on the Stoxx 600 index — second only to Finnish electronics group Nokia, whose shares plunged after an unexpected first-quarter loss.
“After a strong 2018 fourth quarter, and while the overall trading environment remains challenging, 2019 started with soft results impacted by stationery in India and lighters in the US,” said Gonzalve Bich, Bic chief executive.
“However, we maintained or grew market share in our three categories, and regained momentum in shavers,” he added.
In India, Cello Pens, which Bic bought in 2015, saw a double digit drop off in sales as it sought to reduce shipments to so-called “superstockists”. Global stationery sales fell 6 per cent on a comparative basis, stripping out the impact of acquisitions and divestments.
Lighter sales fell 10 per cent in North America on the back of inventory adjustments by wholesalers and a declining market. Globally, lighter sales were down 6 per cent on a comparative basis.
Its shaver business did better, with strong eastern European and Russian performance driving a 10 per cent rise on a comparative basis.
The company expects first quarter “headwinds” to lessen over the year and retained its full year financial outlook of a slight growth in sales.