Despite an improvement in operating performance, the share price plunged 13% in the wake of the publication. Investors did not take kindly to management's very cautious forecasts, which were revised significantly downwards for the ninth time in a row.

On the business front, the improvement is notable in the cosmetics segment - which accounts for half of sales - with a return of the operating margin to its historical highs, and an inventory adjustment that is finally freeing up cash.

This progress is directly linked to the success of La Mer - which continues unabated - and to Asian travel retail, the strategic pillar that is really keeping the whole business afloat.

The make-up and fragrance segments, on the other hand, continue to struggle, while growth in Asia is slow to recover. At current exchange rates, it is negative by 1%, even though Estée Lauder generates a third of its sales in China.

Here, the group is often compared with French group L'Oréal, whose performance is far superior, even though it operates on twice the sales volume and uses far less leverage.

In addition to the Chinese risk and the underperformance of recent years, there is also the question - recurrent in the case of Estée Lauder - of the massive share buy-backs carried out at excessively high valuations throughout the last cycle.

Here, the potential for value destruction remains maximal. As you will recall, this subject was discussed in our columns last year.

Over the first nine months of the fiscal year, sales are down 5% and operating profit is down 5%. Under these conditions, it's not easy to justify a valuation multiple that's still very high.