Fashion retailer back to profit

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The Independent Online
FRENCH Connection, the fashion wholesaler and retailer, reported a return to profit yesterday, but warned that shareholders will probably not see a dividend for at least another 12 months.

Stringent cost-cutting and sharp improvements at Nicole Farhi Wholesale and the US division helped achieve a turn-around from pounds 7.95m of losses to a pre-tax profit of pounds 102,000 in the year to 31 January.

But under new accounting rules that come into force shortly, the group would have made a loss, having to count pounds 235,000 of disposal costs, which it treated as extraordinary, above the profits line.

It also reported another pounds 500,000 of exceptional charges on top of the pounds 777,000 revealed in the first half. The pounds 1.3m total included the cost of closing 15 stores and merchant banking, tax and legal fees.

George Wardale, chairman, said the group was in good shape to take advantage of improving conditions. 'We do not expect any further exceptional costs', he said.

French Connection Wholesale reduced its operating loss from pounds 2.8m to pounds 1.1m; Nicole Farhi Wholesale lifted profits from pounds 300,000 to pounds 1.6m; the retail chain reduced its loss from pounds 300,000 to pounds 200,000; French operations broke even and the US improved from a pounds 100,000 loss to a pounds 900,000 profit.

Borrowings remained high, with bank debt of pounds 5.6m. Mr Wardale said a dividend for the year to January 1994 was unlikely. There are no plans for a rights issue.

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