By  on November 17, 2004

LONDON — It’s bonanza time at Burberry.

The British fashion and accessories company reported a 25 percent surge in first-half profits to 52.3 million pounds, or $94.9 million, from 41.9 million pounds, or $67.7 million, in the same period last year and plans for a share buyback worth 250 million pounds, or $463 million, aimed at returning excess cash to shareholders.

In a separate announcement Tuesday, the company said Brian Blake, worldwide president and chief operating officer, has been named an executive director of the company. He will join Rose Marie Bravo, chief executive officer, and Stacey Cartwright, chief financial officer, on the board immediately.

Profits in the six months ended Sept. 30 increased on the back of an 8 percent surge in sales, as reported last month, to 347.5 million pounds, or $630.4 million, from 321.3 million pounds, or $518.9 million, and a rise in gross profit to 58.6 percent from 55.6 percent. Dollar figures have been converted at the average exchange rate.

Reduced end-of-season sales activity and markdowns, sourcing and pricing gains and an increase in licensing income boosted the gross profit rise. The figure beat most analysts’ expectations.

“We had a really good first half — good growth, very few markdowns and strong sell-through for the spring 2004 collections,” said Cartwright in a telephone interview. She said fall had a slower start, however, mostly due to the temperate weather in both the U.S. and Europe. “We’ve had a slow start to winter. Ponchos, on the other hand, have been flying out the door,” said Cartwright.

Diluted earnings per share before goodwill amortization and exceptional gains increased 20 percent to 10.8 pence, or 20 cents, while the interim dividend increased 33 percent to 2 pence, or 4 cents.

By product category, women’s wear was still the biggest with sales rising 10.7 percent to 118.5 million pounds, or $214.9 million, from 107 million pounds, or $194.1 million. Men’s wear sales rose 0.8 percent to 95.1 million pounds, or $172.5 million, from 94.3 million pounds, or $152.3 million.

Accessories and children’s wear gained 6.9 percent to 93.3 million pounds, or $169.3 million, from 87.3 million pounds, or $141 million, driven by new products, small leather goods — and ponchos, the company said in Tuesday’s statement. Accessories accounted for 25 percent of revenue in the period, excluding children’s wear.

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