UPDATE 1-Cooker maker AGA Rangemaster looks overseas for growth
LONDON, March 8 (Reuters) - Britain's AGA Rangemaster Group PLC is hoping it can lure more Americans and Chinese to buy its upmarket cookers, as fewer house moves in Britain led to a fall in sales in 2012.
AGA's cast-iron cookers are renowned for their appeal to farming communities in Britain and affluent urban customers, and the firm says it counts veteran rock star Paul McCartney and French actor Gerard Depardieu among its following of 'AGA enthusiasts'.
But a slow down in the number of people moving house or making home improvements in recession-weary Britain has hit sales, and AGA is seeking revenues from further afield.
"The objective now is to spread the word about range cooking...that's something we will be beating the drum for not only in the UK but in international markets as well," AGA's Chief Executive William McGrath told Reuters on Friday.
Despite a 2.5 percent slip in revenues in 2012, AGA's pretax profits rose to 8.4 million pounds ($12.6 million) from 7.5 million a year earlier as the firm said it closed some retail outlets to concentrate on larger showrooms.
The company, which also sells refrigerators under the Marvel brand and Fired Earth tiles, currently generates 37 percent of its sales from outside Britain, and is aiming to increase that to 50 percent.
It is working with Chinese manufacturer Vatti to launch its products in China, and also has a foothold in North America, which it sees as its fastest growing market in 2013.
"So far this year we have seen a slow January and a positive February. There is a notable pick up against last year for AGA Marvel in North America and for Fired Earth," it said.
McGrath said that the AGA cooker had now become a factory-finished product, rather than built into the home, and could be switched on and off, making it more flexible.
"If AGA can be not just a British product, but if we can make it into a global product, that is really where the opportunity for the group as an investment hinges," McGrath said.
AGA on Friday reported revenues in the year to end-Dec of 244.6 million pounds, compared to 250.9 million pounds in 2011.
The company said it was not recommending a final dividend, having paid 1.9 pence in 2011.
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