The operating margin of 36 percent reached by Hermès in the first half of this year is a record for the French luxury goods company, placing it close to the 42 percent operating margin that has been mentioned some time ago for Louis Vuitton, which sells all its products only in its own stores.

In addition to a 37.3 percent increase in operating earnings to €418.1 million, Hermès' net profit soared by 49.5 percent to €291 million thanks to a $29.5 million gain from the sale of its stake in Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Hermès already reported last July a 22 percent sales increase of €1.3 billion for the first six months of this year. In particular, its sales of clothing, shoes and other accessories grew by 30.5 percent to 20 percent of the total. John Lobb and OEM manufacturing generated sales of €57.5 million.

The growth rate is expected to decline in the second half, resulting in an overall sales increase of 12 to 14 percent in constant currencies for the full year. The operating margin should be close to the record reach in 2010.

Meanwhile, endorsing a previous statement by the watchdog of the Paris stock exchange, the Paris court of appeals ruled last Thursday that the Hermès family will not have to launch a full bid for all the shares in the company to set up a family holding company owning more than 50 percent of Hermès' equity.

The action has been requested by the board and the management of Hermès to prevent a possible hostile offer by LVMH, which has gradually acquired 21.4 percent of the company's shares. It has been a great investment, as the shares are now worth 70 percent more than one year ago, capitalizing Hermès at 53 times its annual earnings.

Some 72 family heirs together own about 73 percent of Hermès' capital, but some of them have been tempted to cash out because of the high stock price. Meanwhile, Hermès has repurchased about 1 percent of its own equity in the last three months.