Strikes help to derail Liberty

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THE RAIL strikes and the cost of closing its New York store helped to push Liberty, the retailer, into the red at the interim stage, writes Heather Connon.

The group made a pounds 305,000 loss before tax in the half to July compared with a pounds 602,000 profit last time on sales up 2.4 per cent at pounds 38.3m. The group traditionally makes most of its profit in the second half.

Losses in the retailing business widened from pounds 561,000 to pounds 1.3m, although that was partly due to the pounds 400,000 cost of closing its New York store.

Patrick Austen, Liberty's chief executive, blamed the poor performance partly on the rail strikes - one coincided with the first day of the summer sale.

The new store at Heathrow airport bucked the trend and was performing well.

The disappointing results come just six months after Liberty altered its share structure to give votes to all shareholders. Liberty had delayed the changes until it was confident its profits would cover the cost of paying a maintained dividend on more shares.

The interim dividend was maintained at 1.85p, despite a loss per share of 3.44p. The shares fell 33p to 355p.