UPDATE 1-ASOS maintains heady sales growth

Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:36am EDT

* Says will make year profit forecasts

* Q4 retail sales 141 mln stg, up 31 pct

* Q4 gross margin up 70 basis points

* FY retail sales 538 mln stg, up 38 pct

* Confident on outlook for new financial year

LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - British online fashion retailer ASOS said it would make year profit forecasts after it maintained a heady rate of sales growth in its fourth quarter, buoyed by strong trading in overseas markets such as the United States and Australia.

The retailer, which targets young women looking to emulate the designer looks of celebrities like Alexa Chung, Tulisa Contostavlos and Kate Moss, said on Wednesday its retail sales rose 31 percent to 141 million pounds ($229 million) in the three months to August 31.

That was the same as the growth rate of the previous quarter and took the full year total to 538 million pounds, a rise of 38 percent.

Fourth quarter UK sales rose 15 percent to 50 million pounds, while international sales increased 42 percent to 91 million pounds and now represent 65 percent of the total.

ASOS said its retail gross margin improved by 70 basis points over the period even though it cut prices.

The firm, which has changed its year end from March to August, said profit for the five months ended August 31 and pro forma full year were expected to be in line with expectations.

"We approach our new financial year with continued confidence," said Chief Executive Nick Robertson.

With Britain in recession many retailers have been finding the going tough as disposable incomes are squeezed by government austerity measures and with wages growth not keeping up with rises in prices.

ASOS, with its broad international reach, has bucked the gloom.

Shares in the firm have risen 23 percent over the last three months hitting a 12-month high of 2,101 pence last week.

The stock closed at 2,022 pence on Tuesday, valuing the business at 1.65 billion pounds.

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