Argos owner nudges up profit expectations after sales surge

LONDON, March 13 Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:17am EDT

LONDON, March 13 (Reuters) - Britain's Home Retail Group said annual profit would now be slightly ahead of the top end of market forecasts after it delivered a much better-than-expected finish to the year at its Argos and Homebase businesses.

The firm said on Thursday it expected group benchmark pretax profit to be "slightly ahead" of the top end of the current range of market forecasts of 107 to 111 million pounds ($184 million). In January the firm had guided to an annual profit towards the top end of forecasts of 90-109 million pounds.

Sales at Argos stores open over a year rose 5.2 percent in the final eight weeks of its fiscal year to March 1, while sales on the same basis at Homebase rose 9.3 percent.

Both rises were well ahead of average analyst forecasts of a 1.8 percent rise at Argos and 3.4 percent rise at Homebase.