PARIS: Hard-pressed European consumers are cutting back on beauty treatments, according to cosmetics giant L'Oréal, which reports a weaker than expected set of results for the first half of 2008, triggering a lower forecast for the rest of the year.

The world's biggest cosmetics firm, whose brands include Lancôme, Maybelline and the Body Shop, cut its 2008 annual revenue growth target to around 6% from a previous target of 6%-8%. Some analysts believe even the revised figure could be optimistic.

Ceo Jean-Paul Agon commented: "There is a difference between what we thought we would achieve and what we did actually achieve and this is due to the end results in western Europe."

Like-for-like sales growth in western Europe was 0.4% in the second quarter, against a 3% rise in sales in North America.

Total sales in Europe fell 1.3% and were down 5.8% in North America, partly because of the strength of the euro against the dollar.

L'Oreal's revenues in the second quarter were €4.28 billion ($6.8bn; £3.4bn), below expectations of circa € 4.34bn.

The economic slowdown has depressed the company's stock value by around 32% since the beginning of the year.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff