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Littlewoods denies Storehouse intentions

LITTLEWOODS, the privately-owned retail and football pools empire, yesterday announced confident results boosting City expectations that it was getting into shape for flotation.

But James Ross, the chairman, denied the group was considering entering the market with a takeover of Storehouse, the struggling owner of Bhs and Mothercare. "We have no interest in taking over Storehouse," he said. "We have our hands full driving out costs from the company. But if it was broken up we would look to cherry pick particular stores."

Littlewoods reported underlying retail trading profits up 16 per cent at pounds 105m for the year ending April, which Mr Ross described as "very satisfactory" given the tough conditions on the high street.

An analyst said: "It's pretty good progress. All the ingredients are in place for flotation but nothing is concrete at this stage.

"What they're doing on the retail side in terms of strategy is paying off and what they've done on the agency side - reducing consultants by 3 per cent while only losing 1 per cent in sales - is equally impressive."

Mr Ross said Littlewoods was three years into a five-year revitalisation programme. Shop, the group's home-shopping channel, was launched with Granada last year and a raft of new staff have joined the company.

The 30 Moores family members who own the business will receive a dividend of pounds 18.8m, the same as last year.