Optimism at Laura Ashley on franchise plans

Clothing and soft furnishings group Laura Ashley is 'hopeful' of offloading its loss-making European stores.

The retailer is in advanced negotiations with a prospective franchisee for its shops in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

However, a spokesman would only confirm it is 'particularly hopeful in certain areas'.

The company anticipates a pre-tax loss of£5 million for the year to January 25.