Time up despite snags at Signet

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The Independent Online
TIME Products, the watchmaker and distributor, has increased profits despite the problems faced by its most important retail outlet.

The company had to adjust to the rebranding of Ratners, Britain's biggest chain of jewellers, as Signet which is a leading retailer of TP's Sekonda watch product range.

But buoyant demand for luxury watches drove a group-wide profits advance of 15 per cent.

TP distributes watches for Audemars Piguet, Baume & Mercier, Blancpain and Piaget - brands that retail at upwards of pounds 1,000.

Overall pre-tax profits grew from pounds 9.9m to pounds 11.4m for the year to 31 January. The company said most of the growth came from luxury items.

The most expensive watch it sold in the year retailed at pounds 500,000.

During the year TP also bought the US-based high- fashion handbag company, Judith Leiber.

Leiber added pounds 13.5m of turnover and pounds 1.6m of profit. Marcus Margulies, chairman, said much of the company's future growth potential lay with Leiber. He wants to broaden its sales base out of North America and into South-east Asia and Europe. Plans are also being laid to diversify from handbags into related luxury goods.

The group had pounds 10m of cash at the year-end and is looking for bolt-on acquisitions. Earnings per share for the year were 15.8p against 13.9p and the dividend was raised to 8.5p from 7.95p. The shares closed up 8p at 240p.