MILAN — IT Holding, parent of Gianfranco Ferré, Romeo Gigli and Ittierre, reported first-half operating profits grew 23 percent to $13.5 million as Ferré results were consolidated for the first time.

Sales advanced 26.1 percent to $305 million. A statement issued by the company Thursday attributed growth to healthy sales volumes, an increase in profitability and a rationalization of operating costs.

Without the consolidation of Ferré, which accounts for 18 percent of sales in the first half, the group reported sales of $288.9 million, up 19.5 percent from the same period last year. All dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

IT Holding said the clothing and accessories division, which accounts for 88.9 percent of sales, grew 23.6 percent, with a 56.5 percent rise in gross operating margin. The eyewear division grew 37 percent, with an 11.1 percent gain in gross operating margin. The perfume division, created in the first half of 2002, registered sales of $3.6 million.

Sales in Italy, which is the group’s main market, grew 44.3 percent in the first half. Sales in the U.S. grew 18.4 percent.

IT Holding’s president and chief executive officer Tonino Perna said in a statement that he was pleased with the results, considering "the delicate state of the market. In particular, we see our first positive results in terms of profitability. We feel we can confirm our growth for the second part of the year."

In two years, IT Holding has expanded its stable of brands, which also include Exté, Malo, Husky and Gentry Portofino.

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