Sales rise aids Royal Doulton

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FINE china sales are booming at Royal Doulton, the Stoke-on-Trent group that demerged from the media conglomerate Pearson last December.

The company has experienced a marked improvement in its domestic market, which accounts for more than half of sales, and in exports to Europe, Australia and Asia Pacific since its flotation.

Turnover rose 4.4 per cent to pounds 101m in the six months to June, and pre-tax profits were pounds 2.6m compared with a loss last time of pounds 3.8m. The figures benefited from an improvement of about 2 per cent in gross manufacturing margins, following stiff cost-cutting.

The sour note was North America, where prices have come under pressure and the group's subsidiaries have experienced a poor half-year.

Doulton had raised prices at the beginning of the year but reversed the decision when it began to lose market share. Nevertheless, conditions continued to be difficult.

Last year's comparative interim loss reflected pounds 3.1m of non-recurring items associated with Pearson. This time profits suffered from an pounds 808,000 charge in respect of the group's Japanese subsidiary.

Profits on ordinary activities of pounds 3.4m fell to pounds 2.6m after a pounds 733,000 interest charge. Earnings per share were 2.9p (0.3p) and the interim dividend is 1.75p compared with a notional 1.65p last time. The shares, which have outperformed the FT-SE 100 by 60 per cent since flotation, rose 2p to 309p.