Top China footwear retailer Belle says 2012 profit up 2.3 pct

HONG KONG, March 25 Mon Mar 25, 2013 6:03am EDT

HONG KONG, March 25 (Reuters) - Belle International Holdings Ltd, China's top footwear retailer by market value, posted a 2.3 percent rise in 2012 profit, its slowest profit growth since 2008, as a weaker economy cut consumer spending and higher wages raised costs.

Belle reported a full-year net profit of 4.4 billion yuan, up from a 4.26 billion yuan profit in 2011 and in line with market forecasts of 4.48 billion yuan, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company posted a 2.16 billion yuan profit for the July-December period, up from 2.01 billion yuan a year earlier. That was in line with market estimates for a 2.24 billion yuan profit.

Full-year revenue rose to 32.86 billion yuan, from 28.95 billion yuan a year ago, with the number of outlets increasing to 17,564, including 12,090 footwear stores and 5,474 sportswear stores, from a total of 14,950 outlets in 2011.

Last month, Belle warned that its 2012 net profit would be "marginally higher" than its net profit in 2011 and would be at the lower end of analyst estimates, ranging from 4.29 billion yuan to 4.85 billion yuan.

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