WH SMITH, the stationers and bookshop, increased its dividend yesterday after reporting an eight per cent rise in its annual profits.
Pre-tax profit for the 217-year-old group hit £81m for the year to 31 August, up from £76m last year, despite sales dropping to £1.34bn from £1.35bn year-on-year.
WH Smith will pay a final dividend of 11.3p to investors on 4 February. The full-year dividend for the whole year will now be 16.7p, an increase of 17 per cent from last year.
The group also unveiled plans to return £35m to investors via a share buyback programme.
The group’s travel arm – which includes stores in airports, train stations and service stations – saw operating profits grow 17 per cent to £48m, while high street operating profits went up by £2m to £49m.
Chief executive Kate Swann has been shaking up the company and focusing on book and stationary sales, while winding down its entertainment that sells CDs and DVDs.
She is also expanding the company internationally. WH Smith used its results yesterday to announce it would open six units at Delhi airport in India next year.
The group already has trial stores in Shannon in Ireland, Copenhagen, and Stockholm-Arlanda, which were all opened earlier this year.
“These trials really provide us with a very low risk way of seeing what opportunity there is,” Swann said.
“Whilst trading conditions are challenging, we have planned accordingly and the group is well-positioned to benefit when consumer spending recovers,”she added.
The company also said yesterday it had identified a further £14m of cost savings it could make in its high street business. Its stock gained four per cent to close at 517.5p.