ASHLEY LOSS INCREASES IN HALF

LONDON — Laura Ashley Holdings PLC, which earlier this year sold its U.S. operations, reported a substantially greater loss in the half-year ended July 31, but added it now is financially stable and looking to return to profits.
The after-tax loss in the six months came to $11.9 million on a 9.5 percent drop in sales of continuing operations to $170.8 million. This compares with an after-tax loss of $4.3 million on sales of continuing operations of $179.1 million in the corresponding period a year earlier. Dollar figures are translated from the English pound at current exchange.
Kwan Cheong Ng, who took over as the company’s chief executive in February, said Laura Ashley had changed substantially since that time.
“The last six months have seen immense management activity,” he said. “With the sale of its North American retail operations and a successful rights issue, Laura Ashley is now a stabilized, focused business ready to progress once more towards profitability.”
Laura Ashley sold its money-losing North American business to a management group led by Paul Ng in July. The operation is now a franchise.
Laura Ashley also raised $40.5 million net of expenses earlier this year through a rights issue that resulted in the company becoming 60 percent owned by Malayan United Industries Berhad. MUI previously owned 40 percent of Laura Ashley. At the end of the half-year, Laura Ashley still had net funds of $22.7 million.
Describing itself as “a focused European retailer with worldwide franchise operations,” the company said it has begun refurbishing its stores in Europe and will have completed 63 redos by the end of November. It aims to refurbish 45 percent of its retail space in Europe by the end of the year and the rest next year.

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