Burberry president checks out after half-year profits slump

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The Independent Online

Burberry's president and chief operating officer Brian Blake quit yesterday after just two years in the job as the upmarket fashion house unveiled lower profits for the first half of its year.

Mr Blake, the former head of Gucci who oversaw the UK firm's wholesale, retail and licensing businesses, was said to be leaving for family reasons. Last month, he ruled himself out as a possible successor to the outgoing chief executive Rose Marie Bravo on the same grounds. Instead, she will be replaced by the New York fashionista Angela Ahrendts, who will pocket a £19m pay package.

No decision will be taken on whether to take on a new chief operating officer until after Ms Ahrendts joins in January. Mr Blake, 50, who scooped £1.19m last year, will receive no pay-off when he leaves next month.

Operating profits at Burberry in the six months to the end of September eased 1.6 per cent to £78.1m. Overall sales edged 2 per cent higher to £355m, but unseasonally warm weather, a consumer slowdown in Britain and the July terrorist attacks in London hurt sales at home. European sales slipped 1 per cent.

But Burberry is hopeful that the recent cold snap here, across Europe and in the US will spur sales of its iconic raincoats, scarves and accessories. Ms Bravo said: "With cold weather arriving and the holidays approaching, we enter the most important time of the year with optimism."

Pink and baby-blue duffel coats and a new pink handbag are tipped as likely best-sellers in the run-up to Christmas. City experts were cautiously optimistic about prospects too. Andreas Inderst, at ABN Amro, said: "This was a solid performance overall. The results look better than we, and the market consensus, expected on bottom line. The outlook is unchanged, but ongoing share repurchases and the rise in dividend underpins the management stance on the medium term."

Sales in the US rose5 per cent on last time, while excluding a modest decline in Japan, sales across Asia gained 9 per cent. Burberry will pay an interim dividend of 2.5p a share.