By Ozan Ergenay and Anastasiia Kozlova
(Reuters) -Swiss duty-free retailer Dufry on Wednesday beat market expectations for first-quarter sales, aided by its acquisition of Italian motorway caterer Autogrill and growing global travel demand, but made no changes to its full-year forecast.
The retailer, which operates more than 2,300 shops at airports, on cruise liners, in seaports and other tourist locations worldwide, has benefited from a strong rebound in global travel since pandemic-related lockdowns were lifted.
Sales in the Asia-Pacific region soared 276.9% in the quarter, driven by the easing of restrictions in China late last year.
"Asia Pacific remains a priority for growth," Dufry CEO Xavier Rossinyol said in an interview. He added Dufry would "deploy more efforts" in the region over the next five years as part of its 2027 strategy.
The company expects positive developments throughout 2023, but said it maintained a "prudent approach" in case of potential changes in the economic environment.
"The strong sales performance together with the strong growth in profit margin make us confident that we can still achieve the guidance we gave for the full year," Rossinyol said.
Dufry reported a 113.4% jump in first-quarter turnover to 2.35 billion Swiss francs ($2.64 billion), from 1.12 billion a year earlier.
The quarterly sales were 10% ahead of consensus, J.P.Morgan analyst Harry Gowers said in a note, but added the unchanged outlook might dampen the share reaction.
"We wouldn't be surprised if the shares are muted today having had a strong rally into results and no upwards changes to guidance," Gowers said.
Dufry shares were down 1.2% in morning trade.
Dufry, which completed the deal to buy a 50.3% stake in Autogrill from Edizione in February, said its mandatory takeover offer for all remaining shares was progressing as planned.
($1 = 0.8889 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Ozan Ergenay and Anastasiia Kozlova in Gdansk; Editing by Milla Nissi, Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)