Debenhams predicts 20 per cent profit rise

Debenhams said annual profit would be slightly ahead of analysts' average forecast, helped by a pick up in fourth-quarter sales and higher profit margins.

The group, Uk's second largest retailer with 160 stores in Britain and Ireland, six in Denmark and 60 franchised outlets overseas, said profit before tax and one-off items for the year ended 28 August would be in the region of £150m.

That would be up about 20 per cent from the year before and just ahead of analysts' average forecast of £147m.

Sales at stores open at least a year were flat, up from a 0.4 per cent decline reported after 42 weeks, while gross profit margins rose, helped by a shift in selling space to higher margin own-bought ranges from concessions.

Debenhams said net debt was better than analysts' average forecast, without giving the figure.