Fashion and home retailer Laura Ashley is to pay a special £3.6m dividend to its shareholders in celebration of its 60th anniversary.

The retailer said the interim dividend of 0.5p per share will “show our appreciation to the shareholders for their continued support”.

It will represent a payout for the Malaysian investors who own around 60% of Laura Ashley, including MUI Group, which rescued Laura Ashley in 1998 when it was on the brink of collapse and owns a 34% stake, and Bonham Industries, the investment vehicle of chairman Dr Khoo Kay Peng, which has a 25% share.

Since MUI Group’s acquisition, Laura Ashley’s performance has turned around as the retailer posted a 9% increase in annual pre-tax profit to £20.1m in the last year. UK sales increased 3.1% to £263m.

Laura Ashley founded the company with her husband Bernard in 1953. The business sold table mats and napkins made from fabric the pair had dyed and printed themselves at their Pimlico flat.

The retailer opened its first shop in 1968. It now has 211 stores and is headed up by chief executive Ng Kwan Cheong.