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Swimwear sales boost Pentland

Three-quarters of last year's Olympic swimming medals were won in Speedo costumes, while three out of the four goalkeepers playing in the semi- finals of Euro 96 wore Reusch gloves, according to Pentland, which owns both brands. They contributed to a big jump in profits at the sports and leisure group, which also boasts Ellesse, Mitre and Berghaus among its stable of brands.

Pentland's reported profits were devastated by a one-off pounds 40.4m charge relating to the disposal of its US consumer goods subsidiary Woods Industries, but before exceptional items profits in the year to December rose 28 per cent to pounds 36m (pounds 28.1m). The dividend rose 6 per cent to 3.5p.

The company also announced it had recruited Nicholas Webster from William Baird to become finance director, succeeding Frank Farrant, who indicated his intention to leave last year. Meanwhile, Tim Score, group financial controller at LucasVarity, will become finance director at William Baird.

Stephen Rubin, chairman, said the strong profits performance vindicated the company's decision, following a strategic review, to focus on its core sports, leisure and fashion markets. He said: "This is the activity on which we shall build Pentland's future prosperity." Pentland's shares closed 3p higher at 108p.

Sales at Speedo were boosted by the launch in March 1996 of Aquablade, a material Pentland described as "the fastest fabric through the water ever developed". The company said three of the four new world records at last summer's Olympics were achieved by swimmers wearing Aquablade.