Mulberry targets US after return to profit

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Mulberry, the luxury goods group, unveiled plans yesterday to make its long-awaited move to the US as it posted its first annual profit in three years.

Mulberry, the luxury goods group, unveiled plans yesterday to make its long-awaited move to the US as it posted its first annual profit in three years.

The group, controlled by the Singaporean billionaires Ong Beng Seng and his wife Christina, will launch its handbags in New York's Bergdorf Goodman department store this autumn.

The Ongs have been promising to bankroll the group's US expansion ever since they injected £7.6m in Mulberry as part of a joint venture agreement four years ago. Accusations that they had reneged on that deal sparked the ousting of Roger Saul, Mulberry's founder, 18 months ago. The Ongs's retail company, which runs the Armani AX, an Armani diffusion line, will distribute Mulberry in the US.

The group reported pre-tax profits of £41,000 against losses of £2.3m last year. Operating profits were £500,000. It has yet to restore its dividend payouts.

Godfrey Davis, the chief executive, said the turnaround reflected its decision to concentrate on higher-margin accessories such as handbags, which account for 70 per cent of sales. Its bags have been among the fashion hits of the summer.

Like-for-like sales in its full-priced shops have risen 4 per cent during the first nine weeks of the current year, it said.

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