Trading this year is ahead of expectations
House of Fraser has unveiled pre-tax profits up 4.6 per cent to£27.3 million for the year to January 28. However, like-for-like sales at the group's 61 stores fell by 3.9 per cent.

Pre-tax profit for the same period the year before was£26.1 million. HoF chief executive John Coleman said: 'We have demonstrated our resilience to market conditions by delivering another year of profit growth.'

Takeover talks between the department store chain and private equity firm Apax Partners ended last week.

The retailer disclosed that trading during the first seven weeks of the new financial year had been ahead of expectations. Total sales were up 15.6 per cent compared with last year, although like-for-like sales were down 1.3 per cent.

Chairman Michael Wemms said: 'While we are encouraged by the start we have made for the year, we anticipate the retail market will continue to be difficult for at least the first half of 2006. We remain focused on operating the business as efficiently as possible, but expect to experience continued cost pressures over the course of the year.'

Last year, House of Fraser acquired department store chains Jenners and Beatties, adding 16 shops totalling 830,000 sq ft (77,100 sq m) of trading space. Three HoF stores opened, at Norwich, Dublin and Maidstone, while three stores closed - Dickins & Jones on London's Regent Street, Barkers in Kensington and Beatties in Birmingham.