Thorntons posts better-than-expected profit, shares rise

Sept 12 Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:33am EDT

Sept 12 (Reuters) - British chocolatier Thorntons Plc's full-year profit fell 79 percent but topped analysts' expectations as sales held steady amid weak consumer demand.

Shares in the company were up 3 percent at 27.86 pence at 0723 GMT on the London Stock Exchange.

"The best H2 performance for three years resulted in Thorntons delivering a better than expected FY12 PBT of 0.9 million pounds, compared with our break-even forecast," David Jeary of Investec wrote in a client note.

Thorntons has been struggling with lower demand as consumers have been reluctant to loosen their purse strings in the face of rising prices, subdued wage growth and high unemployment.

To cope with the slowdown, the company has been closing its high street stores and focussing more on its online business. Thorntons, which closed 36 stores during the year, said online sales increased 9.8 percent.

The company, founded by Joseph William Thornton in 1911, cancelled its final dividend and said revenue and margins during the year were hit as consumers shifted to lower priced items.

Thorntons also said Chairman John Spreckelsen will retire on Feb. 1, 2013, and will be replaced by senior independent director Paul Wilkinson.

Profit before tax, excluding exceptional items of 3.1 million pounds, for the 53 weeks ended June 30 fell to 0.9 million pounds from 4.3 million pounds a year earlier.

Revenue fell 0.5 percent to 217.1 million pounds.