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L'Oreal CEO sets cautious tone on China

FILE PHOTO: The logo of French cosmetics group L'Oreal in Paris

By Dominique Patton and Mimosa Spencer

PARIS (Reuters) - L'Oreal's chief executive gave a cautious outlook about China, the world's No. 2 beauty market, on Thursday even after the cosmetics maker reported first-quarter sales growth of more than 6% for the country.

The first-quarter performance in China was well above sector growth of 1%, Nicolas Hieronimus told analysts in a call after the French cosmetics giant that owns the Maybelline and Lancome brands released better-than-expected first-quarter sales.

Even so, he is not banking on any major improvement in consumer confidence.

"We plan with, I would say, a China that is not doing fantastic, and we make the most of the opportunities in Europe, in emerging (markets) and gaining share in North America," he said.

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"And if China accelerates, it will be a positive news on our own expectations."

Demand for mass market products in China has accelerated during the quarter to a greater extent than in the United States, he said.

The make-up market has slowed the most in North America, although fragrance is doing "great", he said in the call.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton and Mimosa Spencer; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Susan Fenton and Barbara Lewis)