Fashion group French Connection has posted a first-half profit after tax for the first time since 2008 and has flagged potential for further international expansion.

French Connection reported that international business, especially licensing, is becoming an increasingly important part of its business and contributed to an interim pre-tax profit of £0.7m versus a £0.2m loss in the comparable period last year. Profit after tax was £1m compared to a loss of £12.7m last time.

Total sales in the six months to July 31 rose 7% to £102.8m. Gross like-for-likes at the UK and European retail business rose 4.6%.

In the first half French Connection launched UK Style by French Connection in Sears stores in the US and loyalty income from the related licence agreement with Li & Fung rose from £1.8m last time to £3m.

French connection founder and chief executive Stephen Marks said: “With the business on a stronger footing, we are in a good position to expand operations internationally. We see great opportunities to grow revenues from both franchising and licensing.

“The global appeal of our brand is evident in our continued growth overseas, and over the next three years we are looking forward to opening as many as 25 more stores in China under our Joint Venture as well as additional store openings by our franchisees in Russia, India and Turkey.”

However he also struck a note of caution about trading conditions. Marks said: “We do not anticipate any easing in the retail environment during the second half of the year.

“However we have a proven ability to produce high quality and desirable ranges and with good increases in wholesale forward orders to support this, we remain confident in achieving our expectations for the full year.”