Laura Ashley share prices plummet in "challenging" year

Reporter:

Owain Farrington

LAURA Ashley share prices have plummeted after the company issued a profit warning last week prior to releasing its annual figures on August 23.

The company, which employs 3,618 people internationally (2016), saw statutory profit before tax fall to £6.3 million compared to the 2016 figure of £22.8 million, though 2016 was over a 74 week period.

In 2016 the company had 3,618 employees, excluding directors.

Two profit warnings have been issued this year alone and earlier this month the company also lost one of its directors.

Additionally the board is recommending that a final dividend is not paid to shareholders, an interim dividend of 0.5p was paid, down from 2.5p in 2016.

Laura Ashley Holdings Plc chairman, Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Peng, said: “Trading conditions have been challenging for the year ended June 30, 2017. The impact of weak sterling has also contributed to the overall fall in profit which the group has experienced.

“We are focused on addressing the challenges which our business has encountered over the past year and are confident that we are well-positioned to overcome them.”

Like-for-like retail sales dropped by 3.1 per cent, though online sales have risen.

Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Peng added: “Our online performance continues to be strong and we saw like-for-like online revenues grow by 5.6 per cent over the year.”

Laura Ashley was founded in 1953 by the woman herself and her husband, Bernard. In 1961 they moved to Machynlleth before establishing the company’s first factory in Carno in 1967.

The company still has its Texplan offices in Newtown and continues to look at international expansion.

Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Peng said: “A strong and expanding international presence is at the core of our strategy. We signed a new licence partner in India earlier this year and we are looking forward to the opening of our first Indian stores next month.

“We launched our Chinese website in November and I am pleased that this is making good progress and enhancing our presence in the territory.

“Laura Ashley is known worldwide for high quality, beautifully designed products. 33 per cent of our sales come from products manufactured in the UK.

“We are confident that the enduring nature and heritage of this much-loved British brand as well as the execution of our business strategies, will help position the group to grow and develop over the years to come.”

Along with the low profit figures, forewarned to be “materially below market expectations”, the company recently lost one of its directors.

On August 10, it announced the immediate resignation of Sally Kealey as an Independent Non-Executive Director.

More information on the company is available at www.lauraashley.com/uk

Email:

owain.farrington@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the County Times

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