Shares in Waterford Wedgwood slumped over 14% today after the luxury goods company warned that its performance in January and February has not met expectations. It added that its margins are coming pressure because of continuing weak demand from the major US store groups.

Waterford said that the US economic situation and uncertainty over future events in Iraq, coupled with the ongoing difficult global circumstances - particularly in Germany - are having a negative impact on overall demand levels.

Against this background, it said its earnings per share this year is likely to be in a range of 4.5 cent and 5 cent. Last year's earnings per share was 4.25 cent. It added that its pre-tax profits, after exceptional items, should be in excess of €40m.

Waterford Wedgwood added that despite the macro-economic issues, the underlying business remains strong. It said that its Waterford, Wedgwood, Rosenthal and All Clad brands have all increased market share in their key markets.

'These are times of great uncertainty particularly for luxury branded products,' Redmond O'Donoghue, the group's chief executive said. 'However, Waterford Wedgwood's performance in fiscal 2003 will show growth on the prior year,' he added.

Waterford shares closed down four cent at 25 cent in Dublin.