Johann Rupert. Pic: Leon Nicholas.

Johannesburg - Johann Rupert’s sabbatical days are numbered, according to Cartier-owner Richemont.

The 63-year-old South African billionaire, who began a yearlong break in September, will stand for election to regain the post of chairman upon his return, the Geneva-based company said as it announced little-changed earnings and a 40 percent increase in its dividend.

The stock rose as much as 3.2 percent in Zurich.

“It will be good to have him back,” Rey Wium, an analyst at Renaissance Capital in Johannesburg, said by phone.

Rupert, who spent 25 years building the luxury-goods maker by combining brands like Cartier and Montblanc, last year announced he wanted a year off to catch up with books to read and to learn fly-fishing.

The company, which had cash of 4.66 billion euros ($6.4 billion) at the end of March, said it plans to raise its dividend to 1.40 Swiss francs a share, exceeding the Bloomberg forecast of 1.15 francs.

The stock traded 3.1 percent higher at 89.95 francs at 9:07 a.m., giving the company a market value of 52 billion francs ($58 billion).

Operating profit was little changed at 2.42 billion euros in the 12 months through March as sales in mainland China declined due to the crackdown on extravagant spending among government officials, the company, whose full name is Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, said.

Richemont got 40 percent of its sales from the Asia-Pacific region.

Sales in mainland China dropped, while revenue growth in Richemont’s Europe unit moderated to a “high single-digit” growth rate.

Revenue gained 5 percent to 10.7 billion euros.

Exchange- rate shifts such as the weakening of the dollar to the euro stripped 5 percentage points off sales growth. Sales in April rose 6 percent excluding currency fluctuations.

Richemont owns about 20 businesses, most of which are at least a century old, including Vacheron Constantin, a Swiss watchmaker founded in 1755 and Purdey, a luxury shotgun maker formed in 1814.

The most recent business addition is Giampiero Bodino, an Italian high-end jeweller that only sells by appointment. - Bloomberg News