Jim Martin, chief executive, said the share price of the target had doubled after Brown accumulated its non- disclosable stake, yielding the profit but making a full bid unattractive.
The target - 'too sensitive' to name - was not in mail order, but would have benefited from Brown's skills in database management, marketing and distribution. Brown is still on the lookout for acquisitions.
It reported a 21 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 19m in the year to 27 February. Sales grew by 12 per cent to pounds 170.8m. A final dividend of 5.05p makes a total of 7p, up 17 per cent.
Sales in the core home shopping business rose 13 per cent to pounds 164.2m, with established customers ordering more often and lapsed customers returning to the fold. However, profits fell at Odhams, the business bought out of receivership in 1991.
The finance and property divisions were also disappointing, recording operating losses of pounds 300,000, compared with a pounds 400,000 profit last time. The main loss-maker was the Dunlop Heywood chartered surveyors operation in the South-east.
The group moved from pounds 1.6m of cash generation to a pounds 1.5m cash outflow because of a deliberate increase in stocks to improve customer response times.Reuse content