Mulberry bags surging profits, eyes international expansion

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British luxury handbag maker Mulberry said Thursday that annual profits more than quadrupled, as the group celebrated its 40th anniversary with stunning sales growth and eyed more global expansion.

Pre-tax earnings rocketed by a staggering 358 percent to £23.3 million ($37.6 million, 26.6 million euros) in the 12 months to the end of March, Mulberry said in a results statement.

Sales jumped 69 percent to £121.6 million pounds in its 2010-11 financial year, as international revenues leapt 145 percent.

The London-listed firm, which has 86 stores and concessions around the world, has also doubled its production of women's handbags to meet demand.

"Mulberry has increased sales by 69 percent year-on-year and delivered a step change in profitability," said Godfrey Davis, group chairman and chief executive, in the earnings release.

"Strong demand in all markets has continued into the new financial year and the outlook for the Mulberry brand is positive.

"While we remain cautious about the global economic environment, we are focused on accelerating our international expansion."

Over the past year, Mulberry opened nine new stores around the world, at locations in Beijing, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands and Sydney.

And Mulberry, which was founded in 1971, has also opened up a new flagship store on New Bond Street in central London.

New store openings are also lined up for Amsterdam, Bangkok, China, Germany, Korea and New York over the next 10 months.

The group will meanwhile expand capacity by 30 percent at its factory in Somerset, southwestern England, in a move which will create 50 new manufacturing jobs.

And in a boost for investors, Mulberry said it would lift its shareholder dividend by 82 percent to 4.0 pence per share.

In morning London deals, the group's share price rallied 8.3 percent to 1,445.80 pence.

The standard version of Mulberry's top-selling Alexa handbag, named after British television presenter Alexa Chung, retails for £785 in Britain.

© 2011 AFP

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