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Ray-Ban maker EssilorLuxottica lifts quarterly sales with China, U.S. help

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(Reuters) - EssilorLuxottica posted a 14.3% rise in first-quarter sales on Thursday powered by a strong rebound in China and the United States as the maker of Oakley and Ray-Ban sunglasses targets a full recovery from the pandemic this year.

Increased demand in the United States helped by stimulus checks and strong Chinese sales in myopia control lenses offset disruptions due to U.S. storms and renewed restrictions in Europe during the quarter due to another COVID-19 spike.

EssilorLuxottica saw a "solid trend" in North America in April while business in Asia was growing at a "strong pace", co-Chief Financial Officer Stefano Grassi told analysts on a call.

"The situation in Brazil continues to be quite challenging in a way but we get early signs of optimism," he said, adding that Brazil would be key during the high season at the end of the third and through the fourth quarter.

The company, which makes sunglasses and spectacle frames for brands such as Chanel, Prada and Versace, usually benefits from the rising need for prescription glasses in aging population and from more time spent on screens. But demand from sunglasses in particular was knocked last year by coronavirus lockdowns and travel curbs.

Sales in the first quarter jumped 14.3% at constant currencies from a year earlier to 4.06 billion euros ($4.9 billion).

The company confirmed its target to return to pre-pandemic levels this year, adding it was aiming to reach "at least" those levels compared to its previous guidance, specifying that the 2021 target included revenue and adjusted operating margin.

First-quarter results were on track towards that goal as sales in the first quarter grew 1.9% over 2019 at constant currencies.

The company, formed from the merger of French lens manufacturer Essilor and Italian spectacles maker Luxottica, confirmed that it expected to deliver savings from the tie-up amounting to 300 million to 350 million euros in adjusted operating profit by the end of 2021 and 420 million to 600 million by the end of 2023.

(Reporting by Silvia Recchimuzzi in Gdansk; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Edmund Blair)