Moss Bros seeks meeting with largest shareholder

Moss Bros yesterday admitted it was struggling to pin down its biggest shareholder, Kevin Stanford, for a meeting, as the menswear chain confirmed it had made its first interim profit in five years.

Moss Bros yesterday admitted it was struggling to pin down its biggest shareholder, Kevin Stanford, for a meeting, as the menswear chain confirmed it had made its first interim profit in five years.

Philip Mountford, the chief executive, said: "It has been difficult for us to track him down." Mr Stanford, the co-founder of Karen Millen, last week increased his interest in Moss Bros to more than 28 per cent. Most of his stake is held through the contracts for difference he acquired from fellow retail entrepreneur Shami Ahmed.

Mr Mountford said it would "be in everybody's best interests" if the company could meet its biggest shareholder. "I have absolutely no idea at all [what his intentions are]. No one knows what he wants. There is a lot of speculation," he added.

Shares in the suits specialist yesterday climbed 2p to 90p. They have almost doubled since January, buoyed by the retailer's turnaround and speculation that Mr Stanford is planning to bid for the group. In June, Mr Stanford made £11m when he sold the Karen Millen group to the Icelandic group Baugur. He has declined to comment on his plans for Moss Bros.

Mr Mountford's comments came as Moss Bros said it had returned to the black at the half-year stage for the first time in five years. In a trading update, it said its interim profits would be "not less than" £500,000 against losses of £1.8m the previous year.

Like-for-like sales at the group's three retail brands - Moss, Hugo Boss and Cecil Gee - climbed 8 per cent during the six months to 31 July, ahead of the group's expectations of a 5 to 6 per cent rise. Gross margins rose 1.5 percentage points.

The company said suit sales had surged 14 per cent during the period, reflecting a return to formal dressing in offices across the country. Its Moss-branded shops increased the amount of "quality branded suits at good prices" that they stock, Mr Mountford said, explaining the chain's 9 per cent underlying sales rise. After a difficult autumn, like-for-like sales rose 2 per cent at its Cecil Gee shops, while Hugo Boss reported a 14 per cent sales surge.

Mr Mountford said the strong start to the year meant he was "confident" the group would beat its 6 per cent underlying annual sales target and "hopeful" it would manage an 8 per cent rise.

Seymour Pierce, the brokerage, nudged its full-year pre-tax profit forecast up to £4.3m from £4m.

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